Conserving the picture

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These services are undertaken by qualified and experienced professional conservators. One deals with works on paper and the other with oils and both have lengthy track records in their fields.


Conservation may be regarded as the preservation of an item pretty much in its current state, usually including some cleaning. Works on paper of a certain age often contain a degree of acid in the paper. This can come from a variety of sources including the paper itself, old mounts, the frame and just to add to the paranoia, the air. Before framing to a conservation standard it makes sense to have valuable pieces assessed and treated if necessary. For perfectly sound reasons, conservators will not give an estimate of cost until they have made a full examination of the item and will not proceed further without client agreement. The cost of work begins at about £50 but this is an example and not a guide.


The conservation of oil paintings is a less scary affair. This usually involves cleaning of some form. If the work is varnished, the varnish might be discoloured and in need of cleaning off and re-varnishing. The surface of an unprotected oil will almost certainly collect dust and, over the years, soot and nicotine. Fortunately these clean up very well and a formerly gloomy oil can burst back to life. Two recent recipients of this treatment were however only about 40 years old and came from totally different sources. For those who dislike glossy oil paintings, matt varnish will do a perfectly good job in reviving the colours and protecting the paint surface.