Fowey Castle

  • James Webb, 1866
  • Oil on canvas|Private Collection, New Jersey

Painting Restoration: Treatment of Old Overpaints

    • Fowey Castle - Before
    • 1. Painting before restoration. This fishermen’s cove seascape seems to be set in late afternoon. Aside from two tears in the canvas and fragile tacking edges, the cleaning part of the treatment looked, at first, to be straightforward.

    • Fowey Castle - Before
    • 2. Painting before restoration. Detail of the left side of the painting with cliffs and the fortress. Two tears in the canvas are also visible.

    • Fowey Castle - Process (Detail)
    • 3. Painting during restoration. (Detail) The cleaning of the right side of the painting involved only the removal of the yellowed varnish layer. The very left side showed, after the varnish was removed, several layers of overpaints, possibly done at different times in the painting’s history.

    • Fowey Castle - Process (Detail)
    • 4. Painting during restoration. (Detail). The same area during the overpaint removal. The brownish overpaint over the rocks under the fortress has been removed, uncovering light-colored rocks with another entrance to the fortress. The warm, yellowish cliffs and dark, round rocks in the foreground have numerous, thick and hard-to-remove overpaints. Further removal of the overpaint would endanger the thin paint layer underneath and disrupt the balance in the composition of the painting. After consulting with the owner, the conservator stopped the cleaning and started the retouching process.

    • Fowey Castle - After (Detail)
    • 5. Painting after restoration. (Detail). The same area after the retouching and revarnishing. The retouching phase focused on smoothing the transition between the different shapes and brushstrokes. The solidity of the rocks has been reestablished. Moreover, the depicted space in the painting (especially between the dark rocks in the foreground and the light cliffs with the fortress behind) has become deeper.

    • Fowey Castle - After (Detail)
    • 6. Painting after restoration. The apparent atmosphere of an afternoon twilight so dominant before the painting's treatment turned to be really a sunny daylight.