Conservation and Restoration of Paintings and Icons

About the Art Conservator


My passion for conservation and restoration started early on, at age 4, when I brought home a frozen, dead raven, and asked my mother if we could plant it so that it would grow anew. My home was in Croatia, which was a part of Yugoslavia in 1965. Some years later, I see myself pulling old, forgotten household and pharmacy utensils out of the huge closet in my grandmother's house, this time in Vojvodina, not far from the capital of Yugoslavia, Belgrade. I clearly remember my sadness about the abandoned, rusted state of the objects and, equally, my eagerness to give them back their life and dignity. It did not matter to me that for many of the objects even my grandmother could not remember their original purpose. My desire to bring them "back to life" was more about restoring the patinated beauty that is often seen on objects that after many years of active use rest in quietude. Also, it was about preserving what, even as a child, I felt was fascinating: the fleeting past with its intriguing secrets.

Conservation Work in Europe

During the next thirty years, I have continued to learn about the past through (often damaged) artworks and objects. After finishing studies in art history and studio art at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, I earned my master's degree in paintings conservation at the Faculty of Applied Arts in Belgrade. For two summers, I participated in fresco restoration in two medieval monasteries with the Serbian Institute for Preservation of Cultural Monuments. As an awarded student of the Austrian Ministry of Science and Research, I spent a semester at the Academy of Fine Arts in the Department for Conservation and Restoration in Vienna. In 1986, I started working as a paintings conservator in the Institute for Restoration of Artworks in Zagreb, on treatment of easel paintings, icons and wooden sculptures from the 15th to the 20th century. When war broke out in the territory of the former Yugoslavia in 1990, my new tasks involved rescuing art objects from churches and other collections in Croatia.

Conservation Work in New York

In 1993, I received an American fellowship in the Paintings Conservation Department of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. During my three years there, I worked on restoration of easel paintings on canvas and panel supports from the 16th to the 20th century and on transferred frescoes from the 12th and the 18th century. The fellowship had a great impact on my professional development and enabled me to take a close look at some of the most important works in the history of art.

Subsequent to my experience at the Met, I developed a private practice providing art conservation services. Currently, I live with my husband and son on the Upper East Side in New York City, where my art conservation studio is located.

©2002-2011 Olga Nikolic-Litwin, Conservation and Restoration of Paintings and Icons, NYC, New York