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CONSERVATION: Paintings


The Gallery’s paintings conservator is responsible for ensuring that all paintings in the Collection, as well as those on loan from other institutions, are preserved in a stable condition. The paintings conservator looks after all types of painted surfaces from traditional eighteenth century easel paintings to contemporary Indigenous artworks. Numbering around 3,000 works, these paintings may be made with a range of media including oil, acrylic, or ochre on a variety of supports including canvas, board, wood or metal.


A thorough understanding of the physical and chemical properties of artists’ materials and intent, the art historical context, and the significance of the painting are needed before commencing any treatment. To this end, the paintings conservator collaborates with the Gallery’s curators to examine the structure of individual paintings, research artists' materials and methods and the techniques and materials needed for conservation treatment. This interdisciplinary approach not only provides invaluable information about the way a painting would have originally appeared, but can also help reveal an artist’s unique techniques in constructing the work.


To assist with treatment and to develop an understanding of an artist’s methods and materials, the paintings conservator studies a painting extensively using a combination of technical tools including microscopes, X-ray equipment and infra-red cameras. Such technical research is vital to current conservation work as it guides treatment, assists in attribution and helps distinguish original layers of paint from later additions. Where possible, results are shared with a broad audience through publications, conferences, didactic panels and public lectures.

 

 

Paintings conservator Maria Kubik working on Tom Nicholson Fragments from Melancholia and Elioth Gruner A Winter's Morning.

Up Close

See how a painting can transform in ‘As white as snow’ – a treatment example.

 

 

 

Art work credits

Thomas Gainsborough William Mayhew 1757. Oil on canvas, 76.0 x 63.4 cm painting, 99.5 x 87 cm frame.
State Art Collection,
Art Gallery of Western Australia. Gift of Mrs Whiteford, 1942
Tom Nicholson Fragments from Melancholia (Documents after five actions, Berlin) 2001-2002, Berlin, Germany, Melancholia (Banner 4) 2002.
Oil on linen, with sewn Hessian loops. State Art Collection, Art Gallery of Western Australia. Gift of John McBride, 2010.

Elioth Gruner A Winter's Morning c1922 (detail). Oil on canvas, 63.5 x 76.2 cm. State Art Collection, Art Gallery of Western Australia
Purchased with funds from the Great Australian Paintings Appeal with funds presented by Swan Television and Radio Broadcasting Ltd, 1978

 

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