Our Paintings Conservation Project

Paintings of Florence Wrey and Lady Charlotte Cole

In April 2018, the team at Florence Court embarked on a two week paintings conservation project. This was the single largest in-situ conservation work that we have undertaken in Fermanagh for several years, and was achievable in part thanks to support from the Esme Mitchell Trust, a charity which supports the arts, heritage and culture in Northern Ireland. Take a look below at what was involved.

The project involved specialist conservators Eeva Kukkoken and Lucy Critchlow from Critchlow and Kukkoken Ltd, a paintings conservation company based in Sheffield, travelling to Fermanagh to spend two weeks treating the selected portraits from Florence Court. They were supported by local art handling company Grallagh Studios, who specialise in working with fine art pieces and have worked in many Northern Ireland National Trust properties, including supporting the recent multi-million pound restoration project at Mount Stewart.

Lucy from Critchlow and Kukkoken, examining our portrait of Florence Court’s namesake - Florence Bourchier Wray.
Lucy from Critchlow and Kukkoken, examining our portrait of Florence Court’s namesake - Florence Bourchier Wray.
Lucy from Critchlow and Kukkoken, examining our portrait of Florence Court’s namesake - Florence Bourchier Wray.

Eeva and Lucy concentrated on treating the paintings and canvas themselves, working on consolidation of paint layers, surface cleaning of the paintings, filling and re-touching of small losses as required and documenting the condition of the paintings. The team from Grallagh concentrated on the frames and ensuring that these were in the best condition they could be, as well as checking all of the fixtures and fittings associated with each painting. We were also lucky enough to make use of Eeva and Lucy’s visit to hold a regional training for other house staff, meaning a whole host of local staff got to learn new skills through the conservators’ expertise.

Lucy from Cricthlow and Kukkonen applying varnish to consolidate small losses from the surface of Florence’s portrait. Although the varnish is white when applied, this dries clear and is unnoticeable once dried.
Lucy from Cricthlow and Kukkonen applying varnish to consolidate small losses from the surface of Florence’s portrait. Although the varnish is white when applied, this dries clear and is unnoticeable once dried.
Lucy from Cricthlow and Kukkonen applying varnish to consolidate small losses from the surface of Florence’s portrait. Although the varnish is white when applied, this dries clear and is unnoticeable once dried.

Over the two weeks of working on-site, the team collectively treated 31 paintings, both the canvases and frames. This is a fantastic outcome and the team at Florence Court are thrilled to see our paintings looking in such fantastic condition. Some of the conservation work took place during our open hours meaning that visitors also got to see the work in progress and got to experience some of the work the National Trust does ‘behind the scenes’ to keep our places and collections looking their best forever, for everyone.

The team from Grallagh Studios examining a frame once the canvas had been removed for treatment.
The team from Grallagh Studios examining a frame once the canvas had been removed for treatment.
The team from Grallagh Studios examining a frame once the canvas had been removed for treatment.

Come and visit Florence Court and enjoy a tour of the house to see the conserved paintings for yourself. While this was a large, one-off project, we do carryout vital conservation work throughout the year to look after our collections and there are often many opportunities for our visitors to see our conservation work in action first-hand.