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Up close and personal with the Portrait Gallery murals

July 6, 2011

This is the first in a series of guest blogs written by visiting students who are working on the conservation of the decorative scheme created by William Hole. This post was written by Eeva Kukkonen from Northumbria University:

In my conservation course we mainly deal with easel paintings in the safety of a comfortable studio, so getting a chance to take part in this project seemed very exciting and slightly terrifying at the same time! For someone who is not very used to extreme heights, climbing up the scaffolding for the first time seemed quite daunting. However, quickly I gained confidence in working far, far away from the ground and even began enjoying the new perspective.

Applying filling material to a damaged area of the murals

I also quickly forgot my issues with heights when we delved into the challenging task of repairing the damaged areas of the painted wall. After successfully consolidating the flaking paint film, we began to apply white filling material to the areas where the original paint and in some areas a layer of plaster had been lost. This was done in order to create an even overall surface and a base for in-painting, which was done with entirely reversible watercolours, imitating the surrounding areas of original paint, thus disguising the losses. At times we were scratching our heads when the watercolour dried to a completely different tone to what we had expected, but in the end everyone seemed to be happy with the results. Even our toughest critics –ourselves- ended up fooled. This became apparent when we began criticising some apparently dodgy areas of paint, which in fact on closer examination, turned out to be part of the original design!

The same area after filling and in-painting the damages

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