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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Glimpse into an Art Conservator's World

Everybody loves a good "before and after" shot, right? Well none understand that better than today’s Art Conservator. In their world, a multitude of treatments and steps bring damaged old artworks from "before" to "after."

Take the images below for example. This painting of a woman from 1890 was badly torn when it arrived at a conservator's studio. The paint was flaking and a discolored varnish had created a grimy layer on top of the paint. Not only were these damages significant, but most of the tear was

through the woman’s face! Although the problems facing the conservator were extensive, there are a number of techniques in an experienced conservators arsenal to tackle the project.

The flaking paint was treated with painted adhesive, and the tear was realigned and held together with small patches and adhesive. To reinforce the wilting canvas, the painting was lined with a secondary linen canvas. After these steps were taken and the huge tear was repaired, the painting actually had very little paint retouching to be done.

The conservator filled in the gaps of missing paint with a pliable material, like putty, and sculpted it to match the surrounded surface. Once the paint surface is unified, a resin-based paint is used to correct the empty spots, a technique called inpainting. The point of using a resin-based paint is to avoid any future discolorations and is easily removable if a repair is needed in the future.

Finally a new varnish is applied to the painting, and the result is astonishing! Don’t be fooled into thinking that this was a “quick fix” project. In many cases, a restoration like this can take days or even months of detailed, meticulous work to complete.

Museum-quality art restoration is as much a science as it is an art. Additionally it is a delicate balance between restoring repairs and conserving the cultural and historical integrity of an artwork. Besides human abuse, art pieces mainly acquire damages from sunlight, humidity, and poor maintenance with the wrong products. Science helps conservators to understand the reasons art works deteriorate and what to do to save them. Solvents, resins, fungicides, and silicones are among many essential chemicals to an art conservator and help them maintain and restore the world’s artistic heritage.

It is always best to consult with a professional art appraiser to determine whether or not restoration is worth the investment of the service costs. In certain cases, restoration or conservation may not be feasible or may devalue an artwork, even by a qualified professional conservator. As a courtesy to our clients, at MIR Appraisal Services, Inc., through one of our many consultation services, we offer conservation and restoration services and treatment proposals.

Here are a few "before and after" shots from our conservator's studio:

Written and researched by Taylor Maatman

MIR Appraisal Services, Inc.
307 N. Michigan Avenue, Suite 308
Chicago, IL 60601
Phone: (312) 814-8510

Works cited:

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    Chicago, Illinois, United States
    Welcome to our blog site! MIR Appraisal Services, Inc. is a fine art and personal property appraisal company dedicated to serving clients throughout the United States and abroad since our incorporation in Chicago in 1994. We specialize in the multi-faceted field of appraising fine art, jewelry, antiques, and decorative items. We also provide professional fine art restoration and conservation treatment for various media, including but not limited to, artworks on canvas, board, masonite, and paper. We offer professional and precise appraisal services carried out by our team of accredited appraisers for the purposes of insurance coverage and claims, charitable donations, estate planning and probate, equitable distribution and fair-market value. We started our art commentary blog site as a venue for colleagues and fellow art enthusiasts to share their experiences within the art community.