Skating Scene

This painting is owned by a private collector.

It shows the dilemma of retouching a painting where the oil paint becomes increasingly transparent with age. The underdrawings can show through which give the conservator a complicated ethical question resolved by careful documentation.

The painting is executed in oil on an oak panel. The panel was supported by cradling. This has historically been applied to paintings to prevent them warping. Cradling such as the one illustrated below is generally not carried out any longer, however, when it is not causing any distress to the panel it is left in place.

Removing an old yellowed varnish from the painting revealed a number of pentimenti (changes of composition) which had become more obvious with age. Some of these had been painted out by the artist and others by an earlier restorer. The conservator was left with the difficult task of distinguishing between these. Once the earlier restoration and discoloured varnish were removed, the conservator had to decide how completely to disguise the pentimenti as they now formed a very interesting element to the painting.

The illustration below shows the artist had changed his composition. Another figure lay underneath the figure of the girl seen below. this had been painted out by the artist however after time, oil paint becomes more transparent and here it showed through. The conservator chose to disguise the head as it was disturbing and to document this clearly in the report. Note also the artist’s fingerprints to the right of the head.

In the images below, the pentimenti below the skaters were very disturbing and had been painted out by a previous restorer. The restoration had darkened and caused a dirty halo around the figures. This was removed and the pentimenti were painted out using a medium which is more stable and does not darken. Once again a photographic record of this was kept.

Another example is shown where a hint of a sketch remains. This shows the importance of documentation in restoration. Note the pentimenti by the girl’s face and gentleman’s hat have not been disguised. These were less disturbing.