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Peel Castle

Date made: c.1840

Artist: unknown artist

Description: Peel Castle. Unknown artist.

In December 2023 this painting will go on display in our National Art Gallery at the Manx Museum in a section dedicated to explaining how we conserve our artworks. It came into our collection in a poor state and in the gallery it will have a label explaining how we might fix such damage:

Chris Weeks, Collections Care and Conservation Manager for Manx National Heritage writes:

Paintings are often varnished. The varnish protects the paint from getting dirty and, more importantly, helps saturate the colours and make the picture more lively. Traditional picture varnishes were mostly made from natural resins such as dammar or rosin, harvested from coniferous trees. Sometimes the artist added oil – linseed or poppy oils were popular – to improve the handling properties of the varnish. Solvents such as turpentine (also derived from pine resin) could be used to make the varnish thinner. Unfortunately these natural oil and resin varnishes pick up dirt easily.

Restorers might re-varnish a painting to improve its appearance. Sometimes the restorer would dissolve old varnish with soap or solvents beforehand. This painting has been re-varnished with an oil-resin type. This coating has since yellowed very badly. The darkening and yellowing is caused by oxygen reacting with the varnish, encouraged by exposure to daylight. You can also see the varnish breaking into small islands or blobs (‘shivering’); this is typical of oil-resin varnish applied on top of older resin varnish.

If the varnish layers were removed from this picture, all the reds, blues, yellows, whites and greens would be restored. It would then need to be re-varnished. Modern conservators tend to use synthetic acrylic varnishes that don’t darken and yellow, and which remain easy to remove, without damaging the paint, for many years.

Measurements: unframed artwork: 64 cm x 52 cm

Materials: oil on canvas

Object name: painting

Collection: Art Collection

ID number: 1955-0314

Subject tags : #artgallerydamaged


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