Restoring a Van Gogh

May 24 2011


Here's an excellent idea - the Cincinnati Art Museum is to restore Van Gogh's Undergrowth with Two Figures in public. The 1890 painting was re-lined in the 1970s, and the wax applied to the back of the canvas is now affecting the paint layers. Now, the wax is being removed, and visitors to the museum can watch via a giant screen.

I regularly encounter damage caused by these wax re-linings. They were all the rage at one point, but now we look back on the process and shudder. Usually, a hot iron was used to melt the wax and so glue the new canvas onto the back of the old. Sadly, this often had the effect of flattening the paint layers - not entirely surprising if you iron a painting - and so the texture and impasto of a painting was lost forever.

I wonder what conservation treatments we use these days that will have to be undone by the next generation of restorers

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