Restoring Mr Peers’ Ancestral Painting
When Mr Peers’ painting arrived in the studio, our conservators immediately realised the potential restoration had to return the artwork to its original stately manner.
At 1.5mx1m, the artwork is an imposing portrait of one of Mr Peers’ ancestors, a merchant from London.
The subject of the painting is depicted sitting in a sheltered outcrop, the backdrop behind is of a bay with sailing ships, their masts raised, edging towards the horizon.
From an in-depth studio assessment, our conservators ascertained the multiple treatments the artwork required.
The most evident damage is the tear, likely made after a high impact against the canvas. The two white stripes running vertically down the painting were most likely water trails, and the painting was also flecked with a white substance, possibly paint.
An intensive clean was needed to remove years of dirt and contaminants, and a couple of areas of lost paint would need to be addressed.
It was also apparent that the painting was not comfortably attached to the stretcher bars, and had caused subsequent creasing. Furthermore, the painting was not positioned correctly within the frame, as highlighted by the obvious gapping running between the top edge of the painting and the frame.
After removing the painting from the frame, it was apparent that there was not enough of the canvas to confidently re-tension in order to remove the creasing. This process involves taking the painting off the stretcher bars, and re-positioning it correctly so it can be most appropriately supported.
In some areas the canvas did not reach to the stretcher bars, so the painting was not fully protected. If the edges of the canvas continued to be abraded, the painting could be at risk of losing key details.
Our conservators also found that the canvas was glued as well as nailed to the stretcher bars.
To bring back the structural stability, we recommended to our client lining the canvas to successfully re-attach the painting to the stretcher bars.
For the frame, a clean was suggested to remove the accumulation of dirt and dust. For the decorative losses, these areas could remoulded and patinated to suit the style and age of the frame. Stabilising the miter joints would additionally prevent movement of the artwork when reinstalled in the frame.
The first part of the treatment that we carried out was to repair the tear. This was carried out using a thread by thread method, where the individual fibres of the tear are brought back together and re-aligned. The tear is then bonded using a heat treatment, culminating in a seamless repair.
With the tear now mended, we focused our attention on the varnish removal and cleaning stage of the restoration.
Firstly we created small ‘windows’ on the painting to find the most effective solvent for removing the surface dirt. This was carried out across multiple parts of the painting, to account for the differences in the condition of the paint layer.
The difference achieved after a full clean and varnish removal was fantastic and it revived the key parts of the painting such as the address on the letter and the detailing on the ships that had been subdued. The cleaning also removed the two (likely water) marks running down the painting and the white flecked substance.
The next step was to line the painting and provide much needed support where the canvas is close to deteriorating.
Where the original canvas is now attached to the new, it is possible to see how close parts of the painting came to being lost. We also added new keys to the stretcher bars and fishing wire to provide additional strength.
Re-attaching the canvas to the stretcher bars also freed the painting from any creasing.
As the areas where there has been previous paint loss were stable, we moved on to applying a filler to the areas of exposed canvas, in preparation for carefully pigment matching against the original paint to retouch the areas where losses had occurred and on the tear repair.
The final step of the restoration of the painting was to re-varnish to provide a protective and lasting finish for the painting.
We were delighted to restore this impressive artwork and frame, and preserve an important piece of Mr Peers’ ancestral history. If you have a painting or frame requiring some restoration, please contact us for our advice and recommendations.