RESTORATION & CONSERVATION SERVICES | FINE ART RESTORATION | PAINTING RESTORATION
“I am absolutely thrilled with the painting thank you!! I am loving having it back. Thank you so much to you and your team for all your work and kindness, which is much appreciated”
– Jane R. Collector and Hiscox policyholder
Our painting restoration department carries out surface and structural restoration to a wide range of paintings. As with all our treatments, painting restoration work is preceded by a consultation and collectors rely on our impartial advice about the potential short and long term implications of treatment, informed by our knowledge of art market conditions.
Bespoke painting restoration treatments are created around the material composition of each painting, a scientific approach that achieves outstanding results without having to resort to aggressive or unsympathetic techniques.
We correct age-related disintegration and damage, for example removing overpaint and historic restoration, relining canvases and stabilising flaking paint. We also fill and retouch paint loss, and remove discoloured varnish, replacing it with a modern conservation-grade equivalent.
Our painting restoration department restores artworks that have suffered accidental damage, been displayed or stored in incorrect atmospheric conditions, as well as paintings that have been devastated by fire or flood.
Painting Restoration Case Studies
17th Century Portrait Painting Restoration
This 17th Century John Riley (1646 – 1691) oil painting of Sarah, Viscountess Castleton came into our studios for painting restoration treatment after the team at Valence House Museum observed paint lifting from the canvas.
After examining the painting under UV light in our painting restoration studio, our painting restorers concluded that the flaking in the paint was a long-term issue.
Our painting restorers also noted that the painting’s original canvas had been previously re-lined and restored, and while this previous re-lining had preserved the tacking edges in places, the original canvas was now highly oxidised and brittle.
These previous painting restoration treatments had focused on removing the yellowing varnish covering the sitter, meaning that by the time the work came into our painting restoration studio, the background depicted in the painting was concealed by a thick oxidised black layer.
Once our painting restorers had removed the surface dirt, trials were conducted to find the optimal method of varnish removal. Removing the aged, discoloured varnish revealed a number of details about the painting, including trees and shrubs in the landscape and establishing that the flowers held by the sitter were roses, not chrysanthemums, as previously recorded.
Once clean, the canvas was de-lined before being re-lined, reusing the replacement stretcher from the previous restoration.
Our painting restorers then applied an isolating varnish to the canvas filled and retouched any losses to the paint using a bespoke varnish, mixed with pigments. A final varnish was then applied by both brush and spray to even the surface coating.
Once dry, the painting was reframed behind non-reflective museum-grade glass and returned to its newly restored frame that had received treatment in our Decorative Arts studio.
19th Century Oil Portrait Painting Restoration
Prideaux Place in North Cornwall, is an historic house used in the filming of the Poldark TV series.
A house flood caused by an escape of water led to a number of historic family paintings and their impressive gilded frames sustaining significant damage.
These paintings subsequently came into Plowden & Smith for a complete programme of restoration.
The paintings were surface cleaned and re-lined to stabilise the flaking paint and any paint losses were filled and retouched.
A conservation-grade varnish was then applied to help protect the paint layer from further damage and to give the painting a cared for appearance.
The gilt frames also required some restoration work, including recreating missing sections of gilded gesso detailing. To see how we restored the gilt frames, visit our Picture Framing page.
Surface Cleaning an Oil Painting
Accumulative dirt is carefully removed from the surface of this oil painting, as a first stage of the cleaning process. After all the surface dirt is removed, discreet patch tests will be carried out to establish the correct combination and concentration of solvents to remove traces of discoloured varnish without disturbing the pigments. At this stage, any detached flakes of paint can be reattached, or if these fragments are missing, these losses toned in.
Restoring a Slashed Painting
Paintings are sometimes inadvertently slashed when being unwrapped with a knife to remove protective packaging.
Our painting conservator used a thread-by-thread tear-mending technique known as reweaving. This resulted in a strong local repair and avoided the need to reline the entire canvas.
The damaged area was then filled and retouched to reintegrate the repair into the surrounding paint.
Restoring a Family Portrait
This much-loved family portrait had suffered as a result of being in a house fire. In addition to soot deposits, the painting was subjected to water damage, and at first glance, the painting appeared to be unsalvageable.
Following tests in our painting restoration studio, it was discovered that the damage had only permeated as far as the layer of varnish, which is applied as a sacrificial coating to the surface of the painting to protect it.
The blanched varnish was painstakingly removed, and the painting then cleaned and re-varnished to protect the family portrait for future generations.
Painting Restoration Frequently Asked Questions
Why have a painting restored?
What sorts of paintings do you restore?
Painting restoration services we offer include:
• Acrylic and vinyl painting restoration and conservation
• Gouache painting restoration and conservation
• Restoration and conservation of antique miniature paintings
• Watercolour painting restoration and conservation (please note that Plowden & Smith has a specialist conservation department for the treatment of works on paper, which would include most watercolours)
• Modern and contemporary painting restoration, including paintings incorporating found materials, or unusual materials typical of the period, for example household emulsions and enamel paints in mid-century works.
• Street art conservation, including spray paint on canvas, board, metal, concrete. We also restore and conserve street art in situ.
• Wall painting and decorative schemes of all ages and media
If your painting falls into a category that you do not feel is covered by the above list, we will almost certainly have the expertise and experience to restore it the highest standards. Please contact us with more information about your painting and we can advise.
What sort of painting restoration treatments do you carry out?
Painting restoration and conservation typically falls into two categories, structural painting restoration and surface painting restoration.
What Training and Experience Do your Painting Restorers have?
Our qualified painting conservators have been many years’ experience between them.
Our Painting Conservator Nao Ikeda has a wealth of experience in the conservation and restoration of easel and panel paintings. Previous roles include working as Senior Conservator for the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo. Nao has also worked for the Tajikistan National Museum, and undertaken commissions for the National Portrait Gallery, Apsley House, and Kenwood House.
Originally from Japan, Nao holds a degree in Oil Painting from the Joshibi University of Art and Design, Tokyo, Japan. She then studied easel and panel painting restoration at the Università Internazionale dell’Arte, Florence, followed by a graduate internship at the Laboratorio di Restauro dell’Opificio delle Pietre Dure, Florence.
Having trained in Italy, Nao has worked on many canvas and panel paintings from the Renaissance period, including Fra Angelico’s Thebaide, Masolino da Panicale’s Storie di San Giuliano and Maestro di Rosano’s cross. Nao’s work restoring the Rosano Cross was published in the book “La Croce Dipinta dell’abbazia di Rosano – Visibile e invisibile. Studio e restauro per la comprensione” (edited by M. Ciatti).
Nao has substantial experience working on paintings of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, including works by the artists Bartolomeo Bimbi, Tommaso Salini and Èlisabeth Vigèe Le Brun.
Our other Painting Conservator, Rita L. Amor, PhD is a specialist in the care of contemporary art. Originally from Spain, Rita studied at the Polytechnic University of Valencia and holds a BA and MA in Fine Arts, and an MA in Conservation and Restoration, specialising in paintings surfaces.
In 2011 she began her PhD thesis inside the Science and Restoration of Historic-Artistic Heritage programme at the same university, receiving a doctorate in 2017 for her body of work in the conservation of contemporary mural art, and the use of optimal treatments for the conservation of graffiti and street art.
In addition to her main research topic, she has collaborated creatively with a number of contemporary artists, which has further developed her career in the conservation of contemporary and non-conventional art.
Rita has worked on conservation projects in private and public institutions in the UK and around the world, including the Royal Academy of Arts, London, Instituto Universitario de Restauracion del Patrimonio (IRP), Valencia, and The Getty Museum, Los Angeles.
Rita has participated in international conferences and symposia across Europe and has published several papers on conservation procedures for contemporary art.
Rita has worked on the conservation and exhibition of contemporary artworks by Rachel Whiteread, Damien Hirst, Jenny Holzer, Günther Förg, George Shaw, Richard Smith, Frank Bowling, Hannah Wilke, Peter Halley, Ai Weiwei, and many others.
What is a painting lining and why is it so important?
I've just bought a painting. What can I do to take care of it, whilst also enjoying it?
Is it worth getting my painting restored?
Many clients bring us paintings they have inherited. Often these works have historically been kept in conditions which are less than ideal, for example at some point in their lives they may have been hanging above a smoking fireplace, or spent many years in a reception room at a time when smoking indoors was more common, or alternatively they may have been stored in a damp basement, garage or shed. These works are often utterly transformed by straightforward procedures like surface cleaning, and their owners had no idea that their painting – or possibly great grandfather’s masterpiece – could ever look as good as it now does. Not only do these treatments give a whole new lease of life to the painting, but they often completely revive the room in which the painting is displayed.