Back to Blog
Art Restoration: The Process
Perhaps you have seen in the news lately that another amateur Art Conservationist has completed work that was not so immaculate. We have seen restoration work within the past few years that has defiled paintings, completely hindering their artistic and historic value. We wondered, what are the steps to restore a work of art damaged by time? Here is what we found out:
Art conservators are extraordinarily important to the art world. Being meticulous in their work, cleaning, patching, and knowledge are important. Art restoration does not simplify to cleaning a painting, it is also dependent on knowledge, knowing about the artist and the history of that time period. When a conservator first receives a painting, they must take time to evaluate the condition of the piece as well as who the artist was. By knowing who produced the painting, they know the time period, style, and what tools should be used to match. In order to ensure the best match of pigments in the paint, the frame must be removed to examine the edges of the painting. The edges of the painting that have been beneath the frame usually have aged well.
Next, ultraviolet light is used my the conservator to determine if a type of varnish was used overtop the painting. The varnish must be removed in order for the conservator to restore the paint beneath. Having been trained in Chemistry, an Art Conservationist knows which solvent to use on which varnish to expose the natural paint with the least damage. Having the varnish removed, the colors and tones of the paint can be noted through the use of a microscope and magnified glass. To further remove the varnish, the use of a “retarding” solvent removes any of the conservator’s previous solvent residue. Being careful not to linger, since a conservator must not chemically burn the surface of the painting, nor remove parts of the painting. As meticulous of a job as it is, the reward of a beautiful painting being exposed is a sight to behold.
The surface of the painting is not the only issue when it comes to historical art. The structure of the piece can also be cause of concern. The conservator must pay close attention to the back of the canvas by using a surgeon’s scalpel to remove the impurities. These impurities can cause issue with the painting if left alone.
Once the painting has been placed in the appropriate stretcher, the artist can begin the restorative painting process.
The most important step in the painting process is to first paint a removable varnish, or “isolating varnish”, over the natural paint. This acts as a layer between the original artist’s work and that of the Conservator. The new paint should only be used where there is none on the canvas. Never should a conservator paint over the original brush strokes. By using 00 and 000 brushes, the strokes are miniature, but create a large difference in the painting once restoration is complete. After meticulously painting, the finishing coat of varnish is applied and the artwork has new life.
Having documented each process of the restoration by taking pictures, the Conservationist has completed their job.
Now knowing how detail oriented a Art Restoration can be, our team at Creative Consulting has a deep respect for talented Conservationists. The art world needs to be protected and preserved.
Author: Jessica Carder, Creative Consulting 2018