The Paintings Department appreciates the importance of being a custodian of art and strives to do its part to preserve paintings by using the least invasive treatments possible for each piece.

The conservators recognize that a work of art is more than the sum of its parts and can only be enjoyed by respecting the original intent of the artist. While a work of art can be timeless, the materials used are vulnerable to age and environmental conditions. Many types of damage occur to paintings including: paint losses and flaking, tears, discolored varnish, degradation of previous restoration campaigns, and accumulation of layers of grime and dust. 

Equally important to treating the paint layer is paying meticulous attention to the support on which it was applied. The support, or the structure of a painting, includes canvas, panel, board, and stretchers or strainers. The Center treats all material aspects of paintings using conservation-grade solvents, adhesives, and paints for the treatment of each individual work. 

Conserving the canon: A biblical scene revealed

treatment gallery

Fanny Hewitt Fearn, Herman Herkomer. Oil on canvas. Damaged by Hurricane Katrina.

before after

Archbishop, J.F. Kaufman. Oil on canvas. Impact damage.

before after

On Parade, Edouard Detaille. Oil on canvas. Age-related damage.

before after

Portrait of a Man, Unsigned. Oil on canvas board. Flaking paint and age-related damage.

before after

Church in a Valley, James Topping. Oil on canvas. Grime and age-related damage.

before after

Blue Skyline, John Button. Acrylic on canvas. Heavy grime and age-related damage.

before after

stories related to paintings conservation:

Greco-Roman holiday


This painting came to The Center with a thick layer of natural varnish that discolored so much over time that it was difficult to make out the scene, much less any previous repairs. Normally, a conservator would be able to accurately pinpoint old repairs using ultraviolet light to differentiate areas of repaint from the original paint, but the heavy varnish completely obscured the surface under UV. Nonetheless, one of our painting conservators, Michael Young, was able to discern that the paint surface had been previously repaired.  Even so, the true extent of the repaint was unexpected.

Patching up a Paschke Painting


The canvas exhibited numerous deformations scattered throughout the painting, primarily on the left half of the piece. There were varying degrees of deformations, dents, and areas of embossed paint throughout the entire piece. The canvas was very slack on its support, and exhibited a complex L-shaped tear in the bottom right quadrant of the painting.

I Can See Clearly Now:                                                                   Bringing a Family Heirloom Painting Back to Life


When The Conservation Center encounters an heirloom piece that has extraordinary sentimental value to our client, we always like to learn more about its history and the meaning of the piece for the family. Recently, Mary Anne Keane brought us a reproduction of Jean-François Millet’s (1814–1875) The Angelus that was on display in her living room. “Ever since my childhood, I’ve always had fond memories of this painting hanging in my grandparents’, and eventually my parents’ home,” said Mary Anne. “After inheriting The Angelus, I realized if I didn’t take good care of the artwork now, though it had made it a century so far, it would not be around much longer for my family to appreciate.” Mary Anne also began investigating its provenance to better understand the origin of the piece.