Allan Barr, mid 20th century, Oil on canvas Private client
On arrival: uneven surface, discolored varnish, extensive paint loss
Flattened, cleaned, paint losses filled
The condition of this painting was the result of having been rolled up and left in a closet in the Caribbean for fifty years. The woman had been a fashion model and her daughter, whose portrait was also discovered at the same time, wanted it to be restored. The painting had not only been rolled up but rolled up with the paint film facing inward without a core so it had hardened, stiffened and been crushed in a partially rolled up position causing extensive flaking and losses of the paint film.
Gently and gradually the reverse side of the painting was dampened with distilled water and slowly unrolled and flattened between rag blotters with weights. When the painting had been fully opened and was partially back in plane, a mulberry paper facing tissue was attached to the surface to stabilize the paint film. When this was dry, the painting was placed face down on blotters and each of the creases was repeatedly moistened and flattened with blotters and weights starting in the center and working out toward the edges.
When the painting had been flattened as much as possible it was placed face down on the vacuum hot table on a sheet of glassine and impregnated with conservation wax. A second linen lining canvas, larger than the original, was stretched, soaked, and restretched to remove all possibility of further expansion. Conservation wax was applied to that also and the two were laminated together on a vacuum hot table. The heat of the table melted the wax and the pressure of the vacuum joined the painting tightly to its new support. Energetic rolling with rubber rollers extruded all excess wax and pressed away any possible air bubbles. The wax infused the painting from the rear and permanently arrested the flaking of paint.
When cooled, the painting was stretched on a custom built Lebron expansion stretcher and the turnbuckles were tightened until an even tension was achieved. Next, the painting was carefully cleaned with a surfactant detergent stopped with distilled water and mineral spirits to remove surface grime.
At this point, with the painting turned face up, losses due to rolling were filled with gesso, screeded to level with the surface and, after a separating coat of acryloid B-67, inpainted with pure ground pigments in a medium of B-67. Inpainting is done with seven power magnification under 500 watt lights to ensure perfect matching of color. This type of paint is used because it does not change over time as oil paint does and is easily reversible.
When inpainting was complete, several coats of paraloid B-72 were sprayed on to resurface and protect the paint film. As with the inpainting medium, these varnishes do not change so the painting will remain in its restored condition for a long time.