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Behind the Scenes in Conservation: Folk Art Grime Removal

by Conservation


behind the scenes , conservation , folk art , painting

Our paintings conservator has been removing a thick grime layer from this recently acquired folk art painting.  Here the right half has been cleaned.  She’s made a clear water gel, using an innovative formula developed by conservation scientists in recent years.  The gel holds the water on the surface of the painting.  The structure within the gel then surrounds and lifts the grime, and our conservator removes it with a swab of distilled water.  In the detail image, though it looks a little like pork in aspic, the water gel is tinted brown with the grime it has picked up.  

The gel method reduces the amount of mechanical action on the paint surface so it’s often preferable to more traditional surface-cleaning methods that use more active swabbing.  Look for the cleaned painting in the Folk Art gallery in the coming months.


Image: Henry Dousa (1837 or 1838–1906), United States, The Property of L. A. Parrett, Fayette Co., Ohio, 1874, oil on canvas, Museum Purchase with funds provided by the Mr. and Mrs. Harry S. Leyman Endowment, the Ohio Folk Art Association and the Decorative Arts Society of Cincinnati in memory of Jon Graeter; and Gift of Larry A. Huston Family 17/18.65