Howard Hill 20th century oil on canvas,
1. On arrival: crumpled support, numerous breaks in canvas
2. Detail of damages
3. Flattened, lined, cleaned, filled
4. Inpainted, resurfaced
This severely abused painting was donated to a service organization in New York by its owner who, it appears, kept it in the closet with the athletic equipment. Someone from the organization brought it to Valentine Michalski to find out how much it would cost to restore, with the idea of auctioning it off to raise money. Another client saw it while it was here and liked it so much that she purchased it and paid for the restoration herself. It turned out to have been painted by Norman Rockwell’s maternal grandfather.
The painting was extensively damaged, with a number of tears and some pieces missing altogether. The tacking edges were disconnected from the stretcher so the canvas was buckled and out of plane. The paint film, as a result, was flaking around the breaks.
The first step was to cover the painting with a mulberry facing tissue to prevent further paint loss. When dried and secure, the painting was removed from the stretcher and placed face down on rag blotters. The tacking edges, breaks, and major distortions of the canvas were moistened with distilled water and gradually relaxed and flattened on blotters with weights. When the canvas was back in plane, bridging tissues were placed over the major damages to hold them in place while the lining was done.
The painting was then lined on a vacuum hot table on a preshrunk, double stretched linen lining canvas with conservation wax. Wax was applied to the back of the painting and to the lining canvas and the two were fused, using the heat of the table to melt the wax and the pressure of the vacuum to press them together. Extra wax was extruded by energetic use of rollers so the painting was tightly laminated to its new support.
With the painting consolidated, the facing tissue could be removed and the painting was cleaned of surface grime using an aqueous surfactant stopped with water and mineral spirits. Paint losses were filled with gesso and, after a separating coat of acryloid B-67, inpainted with pure ground pigments in a medium of B-67 and xylene. Inpainting was done with seven power magnification under 500 watt bulbs to ensure perfectly matched color.
The final surface was achieved by sprayed coats of B-67 and paraloid B-72. These varnishes are not affected by ultra violet light so the colors will remain true indefinitely as will the painting itself.