The Steps In Restoring A Painting

Every work is different - the only thing they all have in common - is it takes time!

Below we have broken the restoration process into 6 major steps. However, every work is different and the amount of work required for each step will therefore vary.

We price all our jobs 'purely' on the time taken. However, the value of the painting is important as an expensive painting restored poorly reduces the value, so an important major work will of course have more care, time and attention lavished on it and as a result will cost more to restore.

Time costs money- however, we cannot make it go faster as certain processes, such as allowing the paint time to dry sufficiently before varnishing, are totally beyond our control.

Trust us when we give you a time to complete the work! 
We pride ourselves on our efficiency and always do our best to meet Gallery Exhibition commitments - however unrealistic time presures can often backfire!

Step 1 - The Test Clean

We use an 'Ultra Violet Light' scan which generally shows up any previous restoration.
Once satisfied, we then 'Spot Clean' in several places using a cotton bud, gradually increasing the strength of solvents to carefully remove the varnish and determine what lies beneath! This is the first time we can truly know what work is required to complete the restoration.

This painting sold by an American Museum and attributed to Thomas Gainsborough was bought by a leading fine art dealer who suspected that the original painting had been heavily over restored. He believed that it did not appear to be in his characteristic style, creating the suspicion that a previous restorer had done more than just a re-touch - the equivalent of an early version of cosmetic surgery!


Step 2 - Client Consultation

We always contact the client at this stage! This is now so much easier with digital photography, allowing us to keep the client fully informed at every stage - whatever did we do before the digital revolution?

The images above clearly show a significant amount of over-painting - particuarly on the face - by a previous restoration which was not apparent until the test clean!

We contacted the client to discuss the way forward and after detailed discussions it was decided to "reveal and restore the original Gainsborough painting".

Step 3 - Total Clean

Total clean is a slow and laborious job that involves extreme care in removing the many years of old varnish and any previous restoration or repainting work done by other restorers to reveal the original painting 'worts and all'.

This stage frightens many people! However, most 'Old Masters' may have been restored or retouched many times during their long life.

This cleaning however revealed a different woman beneath the completely overpainted earlier restoration. You can clearly see the restorer simply 'repainted' over the original to make the figure "more aesthetically pleasing" to the tastes of a later period.

The total clean revealed extensive 'Craquelure' and evidence that the previous restorer had also 'topped' (overcleaned) some of the original glazes before embarking on major repainting to idealise the womans features.

Step 4 - Stretchers and Re-Lining

It's at this stage where the canvas is re-lined - only if required, and only in the most extreme circumstances would we fit a new or recycled stretcher. We always try to keep the painting as authentic as possible.

Step 5 - Retouching


Repainted to match a clients whim                    After; less pretty, but the original

Retouching is extremely time consuming and must be undertaken with great care!

Depending on the period of the work different pigments must be mixed to match the original as near as possible.

Although we are literally 'drawing' paint to infill the damaged areas, the style and brush work of the original artist must be respected and copied to maintain the authenticity of the work.

Please see other illustrations of our work in the 'Examples of our work' sections on the main menu.

The revealed portrait above is now much more in the style associated with Gainsboroughs lyrical pastoral Portraits such as the painting entitled 'Mr and Mrs Andrews', in the National Gallery collection.

Step 6 - Varnishing and Finishing

We use a range of top quality varnishes to protect the work. We offer a choice from Matt, Semi Matt through to full Gloss, in either oil or acrylic, to meet the clients taste. They are applied by hand or spray to suit the work and style of the painting. The current fashion, and our preference is an oil based Semi Matt finish to lower reflections and minimise glare.