Painting Conservation: Conserving a Masterpiece

The Norton Museum of Art has just opened an exhibition around the painting from Claude-Joseph Vernet ´s “The Fishermen”; a great example of a landscape painting from the mid 18thcentury.
The painting conservation treatment was performed by South Florida Art Conservation during the past three months. The condition of the painting was far from optimal, with structural issues that affected the support and the paint layer.

Claude-Joseph Vernet ´s “The Fishermen”;  The painting before the painting conservation treatment.

Claude-Joseph Vernet ´s “The Fishermen”; The painting before the conservation treatment.

Also, some unsuccessful previous restorations and an obscured coat of varnish, hid most of the pictorial details. However, there were very few losses of original paint, mostly located around the edges and along the lines of tears and punctures. After several meetings with the curators of the Museum, Cheryl Brutvan and Jerry Dobrick, we agreed to carry out a “minimal intervention” treatment in order to preserve as much as possible of the original aspect of the painting, obviously on the front, but also on the back of the piece.
The painting was thoroughly documented with standard, raking and ultraviolet light. Reflected infrared photography was used as well. The stretcher, with four members and a vertical crossbar had four identical red wax seals likely related to the ownership of the piece at a certain point in time.

Wax seal on the stretcher.

Wax seal on the stretcher.

The structural treatment included removal of previous patches, consolidation of the pictorial layers, tear mending as well as strip lining to reinforce and extend the edges allowing to re-mount the canvas onto the original stretcher.

Detail of the old repair before and after the painting conservation treatment.

Detail of the old repair before and after the conservation treatment.

The cosmetic treatment consisted in surface cleaning, overpaint removal, partial cleaning of discolored varnishes, filling, inpainting and application of a varnish as a final protective layer.

Claude-Joseph Vernet ´s “The Fishermen”; The painting after the painting conservation treatment.

Claude-Joseph Vernet ´s “The Fishermen”; The painting after the conservation treatment.

All treatments were performed in accordance with the Code of Ethics and Guidelines for Practice of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC). Also, all materials used followed conservation standards regarding reversibility and stability.
The exhibition will be open until December 8, 2013.

1 Response

  1. Conservators and restorers have always astonished me with their gift of perfection. Their are many occupations that demand perfection for obvious reasons; such as: a parachute maker. But here we have a dedication to restoring artifacts, many after years of neglect, for posterity; a dedication to prolonging the life of an art object to enable future generations to enjoy and perhaps even emulate the fine work of the artist. In many ways art surpasses words that describe events, terrain, landscapes and of course people and there habits and beliefs. Thank you for being there and having the patience and skill to help maintain the history of our civilization. Bill Ahearn Graphic Designer, Photographer

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