The Painting Conservation Lab is responsible for the care of paintings from the IMA’s European, American, African, Modern and contemporary collections and paintings on loan from museums and private collectors. The conservators of the Painting Conservation Lab focus on the examination, preventive care and hands-on treatment of the paintings. In 2010, that focus will be expanded to include collaboration and research with a new state-of-the-art conservation science lab.
Technical examination is carried out when the conservator wants to understand further details about the materials and construction of a painting, either for art historical research or for information to aid with the conservation treatment. Commonly this work is carried out by the conservator and includes examination with ultraviolet (UV) light, x-radiography, and infrared reflectography (IRR). UV is used to characterize varnishes and identify areas of previous restorations based on observation of a characteristic fluorescence of the materials on the surface. Conservators x-ray paintings to look at the structure or potential areas of damage that may be hidden under layers of paint. IRR incorporates the use of special imaging equipment to examine underdrawings and preparatory sketches that may be present beneath the layers of paint. Further analysis can be carried out in collaboration with the Conservation Scientist.
Painting conservators often approach treatments by addressing both structural concerns and aesthetic issues.
In addition to paintings, the conservators care for the frames in the collection. Frames not only house and protect the works of art, but are often works of art in themselves. There are a number of frames in the collection that date from the same period as the painting as well as some frames that were designed and/or made by the artist. Frames from the IMA’s collection mainly include traditional wooden frames that have been carved, gessoed, and gilt. Conservation of the Museum’s frames not only includes the care and preservation of frames through the ages, but it can include the research and development of new frames in the style of the original when the original no longer survives.