Meet the team at IFACS Bristol, who are currently conserving this very precious picture of The Bond Family for the display in the new Museum. It will be a highlight of our new People’s Dorset gallery exploring objects and stories from 500,000 years ago to the present day.
“The painting needed to be conserved before it could go on display, luckily the painting was delivered to the IFACS studio before lockdown. The painting is enormous, 2.6m by 3.3m, so we needed to winch it into the studio via a removable section of the studio floor.
Here at IFACS, we have been able to work safely within the government guidelines – staying at least two metres apart and using PPE when necessary. We are use to using masks and gloves whilst we work as we sometimes need to use toxic solvents. Our job is not the kind of thing you can take home!
We began by surface cleaning the painting to get rid of an accumulated layer of dust and dirt. We cleaned out debris that had fallen behind the stretcher bars and then used nylon thread to tie in the keys. The keys were tapped into the stretcher to expand it and this allowed us to improve the tension of the canvas. There were raised bumps across the surface due to a poor lining treatment that was carried out in the past. We removed glue drips from the back of the lining canvas that were pushing through to the front and this allowed us to carefully massage the canvas back into plane, after careful humidification, using a warm spatula. This improved the look of the bumps a lot.
Probably the most disturbing thing about the appearance of the Bond family was the old retouchings. These had been applied in the past to hide old damages but had blanched and gone white. It was very distracting to the viewer as the white streaks passed through important areas of the composition, like the face of the older boy. We used stable and reversible resin varnish with pigments to tone the areas so that they match the original paint. We then applied a spray coat of varnish to the painting and this saturated the surface allowing the original colours to look at their best.”