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Painting Restorations

Specialist Oil Paintings Repair and Restoration

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The Process of restoring a painting

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  • 11-03-2021
The Process of restoring a painting

What is Fine Art Restoration and Conservation?

Fine art restoration and conservation differ slightly on paper regarding the treatment taking place on a painting or artwork. Beginning with restoration, in the restoring of works of art, the piece's aesthetic appearance is of the utmost importance. A restorer would ensure that any damage to the original canvas and material is covered up by fresh paint so that the picture looks whole again. In this way, the restorer must use the best materials and paint to restore a work of art that does not damage the original material. They must also ensure that the paint and materials they use age at a similar rate to the originals so that the painting will look correct and whole, without any jarring patches of fresh paint. In this way, a restorer attempts to recreate the painting's original aesthetic qualities before it was damaged. 

On the other hand, conservation aims in many ways to preserve the original work of art as it is. This treatment may involve repairing, cleaning dirt and perhaps removing previous restorations done to the piece. The conservator does not have to make any aesthetic decisions. Their only aim is to preserve the original work and ensure as best they can that it can survive for many years to come. In this way, conservation differs from the restoration process in that they preserve the artist's original vision through cleaning away dirt and preparation rather than altering or improving it. Conservation does not require the addition of fresh paint where some may have cracked or chipped. Instead, the conservator ensures that the painting remains when they receive it for as much time as possible. 

How does Restoration Impact Value?

How restoration impacts the value of a painting or work of art also differs slightly. Given that most old oil paintings sit on canvases, which naturally disintegrate over time, it is rare that you will find an old oil painting or work of art that has not undergone some restoration work. Additionally, oil paintings and other artworks with lots of visible damage, such as stained or yellowed varnish or damaged areas of the canvas, are often valued much lower than paintings that have been restored. Despite the natural damages that come with age, accidents can also cause a painting to need restoration work. It is not unheard of for people visiting museums or galleries to trip and accidentally punch holes through paintings that cost millions of pounds. Regarding the value of a work of art that has undergone restoration, it is a subjective matter. If the restoration work is of excellent quality, then the artwork's value will not suffer. Conversely, if the restoration work is shoddy, then the painting's value will likely drop significantly.

Steps of Painting Restoration


Initial Analysis

The first step in the restoration of an oil painting or other artwork is the initial analysis. During this step, we will assess the damage inflicted on paintings and canvas. We will map everything from flaking paint and paint loss, staining and water damage to provide a comprehensive guide to the work we need to do.  Through solvent tests, UV light, and x-ray examinations, we will discern any previous work done to the painting in addition to the original composition's materials and contemporary techniques used when creating it. This analysis will help us choose the right materials and techniques we should use when restoring any paintings.

This step will allow us to know what we need to do to bring the oil painting back to its former glory. It also helps us discern the piece's history and create a restoration plan for the owner or client who has commissioned the oil painting restoration work.  


Assessing Loss of Paint

Using infrared technology allows us to see how the original composition looked underneath any previous restoration work done. Different pigments and materials in oil and acrylic paintings reflect and absorb various wavelengths of infrared light. This technique allows us the best way to differentiate between the oil paint pigments, carbon-based materials, and varnishes used in the original piece. This information will guide us in choosing the right oil paints and varnishes for the restoration work. 


Removing Discoloured Varnish

After discovering the original composition and the materials used, the next step will be to use the correct varnish remover to remove any discoloured varnish from the painting's surface. This process will allow us to see how the original paintings looked. This process is a delicate step in the restoration of a work of art, and we must do it carefully to avoid further damage to the painting. 


Repairing the Painting

Once we have established the materials used in the painting and the original varnish removal is completed, we can start the necessary repairs. One of these methods may be to apply an intermediate varnish to separate the new paint from the original. This method will allow any future restorations to take place without disturbing the original material. We will carefully inpaint any damaged areas of the oil painting with dry pigments and non-yellowing solvents so that the work of art we are restoring will not require further conservative efforts. We will also use original techniques to preserve the overall style of the paintings. Other work, to things such as the lining or frame, may also be carried out during a restoration.


Varnishing and Finishing

Once the painting restoration has been complete, we will then apply a new layer of varnish to the painting's surface. This step will help bring all of the paint pigments together so that the piece can look whole again. Using original pigments, materials and techniques, the painting will look as it was originally composed. This new layer of varnish will also help to protect the painting from any further damage. 

What Training is Needed to Become a Conservator?

Conservators generally need to have a masters degree in art conservation or other similar subjects. A conservator will also serve work-based placements or internships with a museum or gallery to develop their methods and skills. Given the nature of conservation work, you must be equal parts, scientist and artist. Conservators will also specialise in a particular field or type of art. For example, you will find conservators who work primarily with sculptures or oil paintings. In this way, a conservator can specialise, becoming an expert in whatever form of art they wish to conserve, reassuring their clients that their objects are in good hands.  

What to Expect from Your Conservator

Your oil painting conservator will provide expert knowledge and experience of the conditions that may affect or damage a painting or art piece and conditions that cause deterioration. In this way, they can conduct the necessary treatments to help preserve a painting and recommend any conditions that may conserve the painting when it is displayed. They will understand the scientific processes that damage an oil painting over time, whether this is due to the ageing of the materials used in the piece, how light may damage apiece, to the effects of humidity and air temperature on canvases, frames, paints, and varnishes. In this way, the conservator may extend the life of an artwork for generations to come.