If you look at our website you will see many examples of paintings which we have repaired and restored to their former glory. This is a process which we have developed over the last hundred years after Mr Gadsby senior accepted his first commission to clean a painting in the St Nicholas church during 1898.
Why pictures need restoring
The question is, why would you have a painting cleaned and restored?
If you look at some of the many examples of paintings which we have restored on our website you will see that most of them come in with a brown film over the surface which darkens all of the colours and hides much of the detail. This darkening can be discolouring of the paint but the majority of it is caused by the original copal varnish discolouring over time.
Some of the paintings which we have restored have been be well over a hundred years old and still have the original varnish covering the picture. The problems may be compounded by the use of poor quality paint but this cannot be established until cleaning has commenced, or the painting may be dark because that is the presentation the artist was looking for!!
We have to consider the surface which the painting has been painted onto. Stretched canvas is the most popular but this can present problems as canvas can weaken in time and loose its strength and rigidity. The good thing about oil paint is that it is a strong medium once dry so the canvas may have become weak but the paint will hold the whole picture together.
Many paintings were also painted onto wooden panels which is a solid ground for the painting to sit on but warping can present difficulties, as can the chemicals contained within the wood.
The restoration process
Repairing the ‘canvas’
The first part of the restoration process is to establish that the canvas is rigid and does not have any pin prick holes or any dents in the surface. Small holes can be resolved with a small patch on the back and dents can usually be straightened by stretching the canvas tighter.
Removal of the varnish will usually have to be in several stages depending how easily it can be removed. Some varnish will be easy to clean off but others will be much more stubborn, or we sometimes find that a modern synthetic varnish has been applied over what was originally there!!
Once the varnish has been removed we are able to see the condition of the painting. It may be that no further work is necessary or it could be that a further light clean is required to see the depth of colour. Either way we will always try not to make the finished picture look too “new” or bright.
Re-touching the colour and revarnishing
Before re varnishing the restorer will check to see if any re touching of colour is required, and that there is a uniform finish across the surface of the picture. You can find that new varnish does not dry with an even consistency and can look matted in certain areas. This can simply be resolved by applying a second very thin coat.
One of the most difficult restoration jobs which we have accepted for many years can be seen on this website. It is a large painting which had several tears through the canvas. We had to remove the canvas off its wooden frame and “back line” or attach the original canvas to a new piece so that we could re paint over the huge tears and return the painting to its former glory. Luckily the canvas was in excellent condition so the tears did not damage the paint along the edges and re painting was fairly straight forward.
Written by: Peter Gadsby, Director of W. Frank Gadsby Limited