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Ian Primrose working on restoration of oil painting in his Cape Cod, Mass. Studio

Projects

oil painting before cleaning and restoration oil painting after cleaning oil painting after cleaning and in-painting of losses
Workshop of Joos van Cleve, 1485-1541: St.Jerome in His Study.
Before cleaning (L), then after cleaning, but before in-painting of losses (center). A close-up after completion of in-painting (R).
oil painting before cleaning and restoration oil painting after cleaning and restoration
William Logsdail, 1859-1944: Portrait of Zelia Hambro, 1920.
This striking portrait had suffered much from neglect and poor storage conditions. Dirty, flaking, scraped and torn, paint spattered and damp, it had languished un-appreciated in the back of a garage for years. Quite a large painting, this life-size standing portrait needed a major intervention. It was thoroughly cleaned, its paint layers consolidated, the canvas flattened, repaired and lined, and the losses carefully restored. A time consuming and exacting job, but the results justified the major investment by my client.
oil painting before cleaning and restoration oil painting after cleaning and restoration
Portrait of James Richardson, by an unknown artist - American 19th C.
The painting needed cleaning to remove a cloudy varnish, but the more obvious need for treatment was to deal with the buckled canvas. The tacking edges had become brittle and weak and detached from the stretcher in places, allowing the canvas to become loose and distorted. Fortunately, it was possible in this case to reverse the distortions with treatment on a loom and avoid lining the painting. Only the tacking edges needed to be strengthened.
oil painting before cleaning and restoration oil painting after cleaning and restoration
17th C. English School.
The rather sad state of this portrait from the mid 1600’s was mostly due to a 19th C. restoration, the method then employed, and subsequent environmental conditions. The old protein based lining adhesive was very hygroscopic and had absorbed atmospheric moisture, swelling and expanding, then contracting as conditions fluctuated, resulting in the “cupping” of the glue layer. The forces of the distorting glue layer were too much for the painting to resist, and it in turn followed the pattern of the glue, resulting in the crocodile skin texture you see in the first photo. Careful removal of the old glue and re-lining of the canvas had a transformative effect.

Robert Douglas Hunter, 1928-2014.
The image (above top) shows the distorting effect of nicotine deposits, and (above bottom) after cleaning.
The pungent smell of stale tobacco was temporarily regenerated during the cleaning process!
oil painting before cleaning and restoration oil painting after cleaning and restoration
Circle of Jacques-Laurent Agasse, 1767-1849: Gaston De Grieu. Capitaine de Génie Maire.
Before and after a complete restoration.
oil painting before cleaning and restoration oil painting after cleaning and restoration
Cornelius Johnson, 1593-1661: Portrait of Thomas, Lord Coventry, 1627.
The discolored varnish layer was removed, I also reversed and replaced an aged, and poorly executed area of re-touching done as part of an old mending of a tear.
oil painting before cleaning and restoration oil painting after cleaning and restoration
Jozef Israëls, 1824-1911.
Close-up photos of this oil on panel showing effects of varnish removal. The original varnish had turned a cloudy grey/green color.
oil painting part way through cleaning and restoration oil painting after cleaning and restoration
This heavily damaged portrait study by Thomas Sully, 1783-1872, is shown partway through restoration (left) and then completely restored.
oil painting before cleaning and restoration oil painting after cleaning and restoration
Elizabeth Rastall 1760 by Joseph Wright of Derby, 1734-1797.
The image (left), shows the painting with extensive alterations done in the late 1800s, when the background was heavily overpainted and pearls on the sitter's right shoulder scrubbed out. The completely restored painting is shown (right).
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Portrait of Ichabod Norton, circa 1830. Edward Dalton Marchant, 1806 -1887. Martha’s Vineyard Museum.
Before and after restoration. The painting had a layer of grime, and the paint layers were heavily cupped, flaking and fragile.
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These two images show details of the portrait of Ichabod Norton during cleaning.
oil painting before cleaning and restoration oil painting after cleaning and restoration
John Scott, fl:1840-1872. A British three-masted brig in two positions off Dover, England.

Before treatment (left), this painting had a "bleached" look, even though covered by a tinted varnish - the result of over-cleaning and an attempt at a cover-up. Also, in addition to an inadequate lining which needed replacing, there was scattered retouch and overpaint to be removed.

After treatment (right). Despite the irreversible "brightness," a careful restoration has brought out the best in this painting.

oil painting before cleaning and restoration oil painting after cleaning and restoration
This early work by William Bradford (1823-1892), is shown before and after cleaning, varnish removal, and lining.

Solvent testing (below left), was carried out to determine the viability of varnish removal. Two distinct layers of varnish were found. The upper layer being fairly resistant to solvent action, was instead removed by scalpel (below right). The remaining original varnish, was then removed with solvents.

detail of oil painting in the process of being cleaned detail of oil painting in the process of being cleaned
painting before cleaning and restoration painting after cleaning and restoration

This painting by Stanley Bate (1903-1972), is an example of severe contraction, cupping, and delaminating of a paint layer. Consolidating adhesives were injected under the lifting paint which was then re-attached. Once the paint layer had been stabilized, it was safe to clean. The painting was then lined and losses reinstated.

painting before cleaning and restoration

A China Trade ship portrait of the four-masted iron barque "Pegasus" anchored off Hong Kong.

painting after cleaning and restoration
painting before cleaning and restoration

Gabriella Fabbricotti, 1932.

painting after cleaning and restoration