How an Art Conservator Completely Restores a Damaged Painting: A Short, Meditative Documentary

We here at Open Cul­ture take great plea­sure in soup to nuts doc­u­men­taries of mas­ter crafts­peo­ple at work, par­tic­u­lar­ly when the nar­ra­tion has been left out delib­er­ate­ly.

The med­i­ta­tive effect is more pow­er­ful that way, as is our won­der­ment.

We can always go rab­bit­ing after the tech­ni­cal specs of the trade being plied if we’re not entire­ly sure what we’re see­ing.

For instance, those tiny strands con­ser­va­tion­ist Julian Baum­gart­ner of Baum­gart­ner Fine Art Restora­tion places ever so care­ful­ly across a tear in painter Emma Gag­giot­ti Richards’ unti­tled 38”x29” self por­trait?

A tech­nique known as bridg­ing, where­in a rip is sutured using indi­vid­ual strands of Bel­gian linen and reversible con­ser­va­tion adhe­sive.

(We found that out on Baumgartner’s Insta­gram…)

We also take geeky delight in still life-like pre­sen­ta­tions of tools both spe­cial­ized and shock­ing­ly ordi­nary.

Baumgartner’s include an over-the-counter iron and a pair of orange-han­dled scis­sors, labelled so that no one walks away with them…

And who couldn’t think of alter­na­tive uses for those giant Q‑tips, though watch­ing Richards’ skin tones go from dingy to dewy in just a few mea­sured swabs implies that art con­ser­va­tion is the rea­son they were put on earth.

The conservator’s own painter­ly skills are very much on dis­play as he recre­ates dam­aged areas with filler and con­ser­va­tion qual­i­ty oils.

As he has not­ed else­where:

Just as dif­fi­cult as faces but no less impor­tant is fab­ric. Get­ting the col­or and vol­ume just right is very reward­ing. 

The goal of con­ser­va­tion is that the dam­age no longer affects the image as a whole. So we’re not ter­ri­bly con­cerned with whether under a micro­scope or extreme­ly close exam­i­na­tion the restora­tion is vis­i­ble. If you look close enough all con­ser­va­tion is vis­i­ble. 

Our phi­los­o­phy is to alter the art­work as lit­tle as pos­si­ble with respect to the orig­i­nal inten­tion of the artist.

There is one ques­tion left unmet by film­mak­er Jack Brandt­man’s video por­trait, one that casu­al online research seems unlike­ly to sat­is­fy.

What kind of music does the con­ser­va­tor lis­ten to in the stu­dio? Not that soporif­ic instru­men­tal sound­track, we hope!

Per­haps North­west­ern University’s great lis­ten­er-sup­port­ed, stu­dent run sta­tion, WNUR?

WBEZ, the leg­endary pub­lic radio sta­tio?

Or CHIRP, the lat­est addi­tion to Chicago’s radio pedi­gree?

It’d be a pleas­ant sur­prise to find him pow­er­ing through his dai­ly tasks to the tune of the local rock fea­tured in Brantman’s oth­er Made in Chica­go series entries on forg­ing knives and mak­ing jeans.

We live to have our expec­ta­tions defied!

Fol­low Baum­gart­ner Fine Art Restoration’s Insta­gram here.

via The Kids Should See This

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Art of Restor­ing a 400-Year-Old Paint­ing: A Five-Minute Primer

The Art of Restor­ing Clas­sic Films: Cri­te­ri­on Shows You How It Refreshed Two Hitch­cock Movies

25 Mil­lion Images From 14 Art Insti­tu­tions to Be Dig­i­tized & Put Online In One Huge Schol­ar­ly Archive

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Mon­day, Sep­tem­ber 24 for anoth­er month­ly install­ment of her book-based vari­ety show, Necro­mancers of the Pub­lic Domain. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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