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Seeing in Different Ways: A Liz Magor Backpack Project
Seeing in Different Ways:
A Liz Magor Backpack Project

Why Paper Discolours (Part 2)
Why Paper Discolours (Part 2)

Why Paper Discolours (Part 1)
Why Paper Discolours (Part 1)

Mending a Tear in an Aboriginal Drum
Mending a Tear in an Aboriginal Drum

Distortions and Dimensional Changes
in Paper (Part 3)
Distortions and Dimensional Changes
in Paper (Part 3)

Distortions and Dimensional Changes
in Paper (Part 2)

Distortions and Dimensional Changes
in Paper (Part 1)

After treatment
Oscar Cahén: Innovative Conservation
for an Innovative Artist

Rigid Water Gels: New Treatment Options for Paper Conservators

Structural Remedies for Canvas Paintings

Organizing and Preserving Collections - Part 4: Digital-based Material

Organizing and Preserving Collections - Part 3: Photo-based Material

Organizing and Preserving Collections - Part 2: Paper-based Material

First Steps
Organizing and Preserving Collections - Part 1: The First Steps

Natural Dyes
The Use of Natural Dyes in Textile Conservation

A Relocation Project

Challenges of Preserving Contemporary Artwork

Preserve Your Investment through Art Conservation

A Project Completed: Heritage Preserved

Old and New Methods for Cleaning Paintings

I Can See Clearly Now – Or Can I? Part 2

I Can See Clearly Now – Or Can I?

The E.J. Hughes Mural: An Expanded Project

Is She or Is She Not an Emily

Treating Art with Sensitive Media

Malaspina Mural: An Update

For the Artist: Testing Your Materials

Conservator as Art Historian

Alum Sizing and the Art of W.J. Phillips

Treatment of an Elizabeth Keith Wood Block Print

Structural Treatment of an Emily Carr

The Treatment of a Monumental Wall Hanging

Changing Images

Preserving a Rare Record

Gold Leaf: Imitation and Genuine

The Case Against Canvas Backings

Heritage Colours: Research Discovers Original Colours

Lighting Your Art: Balancing Seeing and Protecting

The Double-Sided Emily Carr Painting

Choosing a Period Picture Frame

How to Identify a Picture Frame

Stretching Canvas and Restretching Artwork

Mounting Textiles

Aging Paintings:
Some Causes and Effects

Chine Collé Prints

What's Your Favourite Color?

Backing Removals

Rips, Holes and Tears

Filling in the Gaps

DIY – Preventative Care of Paintings

Frame it Right

Fire, Water and Smoke-Damaged Paintings

Inherent Vice

Saturated Problems:
A Water-Damaged Painting

Moldy Paper

Conserving Time

Conserving Paper: Dos and Don'ts

Repair of Textiles

Conserving Wood

Rescuing Endangered Murals

Repairing Acid-Matte Burn

Art Services & Materials
Exhibition Openings & Events

  Conservation Corner Back

Fire, Smoke and Water Damaged Paintings

by Cheryle A. Harrison
Canadian Pacific Conservators, Vancouver, BC

Fire, Smoke and Water Damaged Paintings (2001),
Painting - BEFORE
Scorched, drenched and distorted - the first sight of this painting brought forth a sympathetic sigh. Dating from the late 1800s, and painted by the Pre-Raphaelite painter, Gabriel Max, this large artwork had come from England to a luxurious resort on the coast of Oregon. A fire ended the resort, all contents were sold and scattered, and the building demolished for a parking lot. The painting and its original carved frame made its way through the decades to a junk shop and finally, to its present. The scorched and blackened surface of the painting needed a gifted eye to envision its distinctive beauty and hidden value.

St Cecilia, the patron saint of music is depicted in a classically draped garment leaning against a carved stone pediment. This dramatic narrative has suffered a long list of concerns including, burnt areas, tears, old patches, overpainting, stretcher bar imprints, and cracking. Paint and ground layers lifted away from the painting's canvas, resulting in tenting and losses of paint. Soot, grime, staining, bloom, and a discoloured varnish, visually disfigured the image so that it was dark and hidden. The painting had been previously lined with a layer of fabric affixed to the backside. An undulating appearance of the canvas support, known as distortion, was a structural reaction to extreme changes in environment; the heat of fire and the water used to quench it. The structural treatment of the artwork included, the injection of adhesive behind flaking paint and re-positioning these paint layers to their original locations. The weak old lining fabric and its adhesive was removed from the verso side of the original canvas support. Of prime concern were the stains disfiguring the image of St Cecilia. The goal was to revive the original paint layer, and insure that no inpainting or reconstruction would be required in these areas. Solvent and humidification treatments eased the distortion, and the staining was reverted. The structural treatment included a new lining and a procedure to strengthen the bonds between layers of the paint, ground, and canvas. Small areas of paint loss were filled and minimally inpainted to museum standards.

Fire, Smoke and Water Damaged Paintings (2001),
Painting - AFTER

The cleaning of the painting occurred in stages, as solutions, gels, and intermixtures were made to suit individual requirements. A specific solution was used to remove the soot and grime. The old varnish had served its purpose and helped to protect the paint surface. A special intermixture removed the discoloured varnish and non-original overpainting. At the completion of the treatment, a reversible varnish was applied for continued protection. The ornate frame was repaired and re-gilded by Brian Dedora of The Workshop. The increased value and the composition of the painting were re-discovered, as the Saint's garment regained its delicate folds, her musical instrument reappeared, and the artist's signature was exposed. When the broken shillelagh representing her martyrdom was cleaned, an inscription was uncovered - Saint Cecilia became St. Caecilliac.

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 Fri, Feb 1, 2008