Painting restoration is a unique and complex process. Almost all art will require restoration eventually, whether this is due to flaking paints, rips and tears to a canvas, or even damage to a frame. Conservation and restoration in London is a speciality of Simon Gillespie. Allow us to share insights into the trade, detailing the steps involved in painting restoration in London

The first step will invariably be an investigation. This involves shining an ultraviolet light on the painting, revealing any previous conservation work. Delicate spot cleaning will follow, which removes the varnish of these restorations and make it clear exactly how much work will be required. Not all painting restoration is equal. Some conservators may have applied more changes to the canvas, diluting the work and intent of the artist.  

Once this inspection is complete, the client will be consulted. This will reveal the extent of any damage and explain if a previous painting restoration, no matter how well-intended, has caused more harm than good. The goal here is to discover the intention of the client. Would they like to restore the painting to match the intention of the artist, including any faded or muted colours, or is pure aesthetic splendour the primary concern?

The lengthiest part of the painting restoration process is a full clean. Undertaken with the permission of the client, a clean is the slow and steady (some might say laborious) process of stripping away countless layers of varnish applied by restorers. Also, this cleaning strips away any painting retouches. Essentially, this restores the painting to its purest form.

This may come as a shock to some clients, who are used to a brighter, more colourful painting. This will be the work of a restorer applying additional paints to match contemporary sensibilities – not necessarily the intention of the artist. This is why it is so important that the client explains exactly what they are looking for when seeking painting restoration in London.

The next step is optional, only included in the painting restoration process if strictly necessary. We are referring to relining the canvas. The canvas may need to be stretched to return to its former shape. In some extreme cases, a new stretcher will be fitted, but any reputable painting restorer will avoid this if at all possible. As always, the priority will be retaining as much authenticity in the restoration as possible.

Next comes the repainting. Painting restoration involves restoring colour to the painting, ideally matching the intention of the artist. This requires a skilled, accredited picture restorer with a keen eye for detail. The master artist’s brush strokes and techniques must be matched and imitated to the letter. 

Again, this is often a phase where differences can creep in between the intent of the artist and the wishes of the client. Portraits, in particular, have fallen victim to varying definitions of beauty over the years. A choice will need to be made – should the painting restoration represent the intention of the artist and period in which it was created, or appeal more to a modern sensibility?

Finally, after a lengthy repainting and retouching process, varnish is reapplied to finish and protect the art. At this point, the painting restoration is completed and the artwork is ready to be returned to its owner.