Cleaning & varnish removal
The painting was removed from the frame and a soft brush and vacuum were used to remove loose dust. Surface cleaning was then carried out using deionised water applied with a cotton swab. In the past the painting has had several layers of overpaint, thickly applied in some areas. Without having a full understanding of the condition of the paint below it was decided to leave these paint layers in place and concentrate on trying to unify the image through varnish removal and a sensitive approach to retouching.
The varnish had clearly degraded in areas. Where the overpaint was secure and robust, the varnish was removed with solvents. Where the nature of the paint was more problematic the varnish was thinned as far as possible to create a uniform surface. It was then possible to consolidate the raised and flaking areas of paint.
Preparing the canvas
The painting was stretched onto a new stretcher with a polyester lining beneath. This would provide adequate support and act as a barrier against dust.
An initial layer of varnish was applied. The canvas was then retouched to integrate large areas of loss and to achieve a clear image from a normal viewing distance. A final coat of varnish with a small proportion of microcrystalline wax added was then sprayed onto the painting.
The simple black frame was retouched and the rebate lined with paper tape and felt strip. The painting was then secured back into the frame with brass strips. The historic labels were placed in a melinex pocket and attached to the reverse of the new stretcher.