Harriet Standeven undertakes a wide range of interventive and preventive conservation treatments, and has considerable experience in the treatment of complex and friable surfaces. She is able to provide training for condition-checking and art handling, and also to conduct research into the materials used by modern and contemporary artists.
Surface cleaning and varnish removal
One of the most common conservation treatments is surface cleaning. Surface dirt can be deposited gradually over time, or can be the result of poor handling: dirty finger prints around the edges of artworks are unfortunately a common sight. Unvarnished, unglazed works are particularly susceptible to both gradual and accidental dirt deposition. Removing surface dirt promptly not only ensures that it is not imbibed permanently into the paint layer (a problem associated with acrylic paintings in particular), but also restores the clarity of the colours.
Older types of varnish, particularly those based on natural resins, tend to discolour as they age. Discoloured varnishes can be removed and replaced with a modern equivalent that will not discolour, and can be removed easily should it be required in the future.
Structural work and consolidation
Physical damages such as tears, holes and deformations can be repaired locally. If the structural damages are significant, or the original canvas is very weak, as a last resort the work can be lined (attaching a new canvas to the original, which provides extra support). Areas of missing paint are filled with inert filler, and the missing area inpainted.
Sometimes the adhesion between ground and paint layers is poor, and the paint cleaves and flakes. Lifting and flaking paint can be secured with an adhesive: the adhesive used depends on the material to be consolidated, but is always non-yellowing.
Inpainting and retouching
Re-integration of missing areas of paint can be done by several methods: it may comprise simple toning that harmonises the work from a distance but is clearly visible when viewed close, or might be all but invisible, even when viewed very closely: sometimes it falls somewhere between the two. The most appropriate method of inpainting will be discussed with the client before treatment.
Scuffs, scratches, and abrasions can also be treated successfully by retouching. A scuff mark is usually a combination of deposited dirt and abrasion, and although most of the deposited material can be removed by cleaning, any remaining staining and abrasion damage can be retouched. All inpainting and retouching is carried out using reversible materials. Please note that sometimes it is not possible to make surface damages disappear completely, but they can usually be reduced and their appearance improved significantly.
Much damage is preventable, and is caused by poor handling, display, and storage rather than natural deterioration. As an advocate of preventive conservation, Harriet can advise on ways to reduce the risks associated with handling, transportation and display. Simple measures such as fitting stretcher-bar linings, padded backboards, and carrying handles are cost-effective ways of protecting artworks from physical damage during handling and transportation. Establishing appropriate light and humidity levels for each artwork, and fitting correct hanging or display mechanisms can help to ensure that your artworks remain safe whilst on display. She can also advise on framing and glazing, where appropriate.
Condition-checking for loan, purchase, and indemnity
If you are considering purchasing an artwork, lending to an exhibition, or need a report for indemnity purposes, Harriet can examine the artwork and provide a detailed report outlining the work’s structure and condition. The report includes a description of the work, notes on its condition, and detailed photographs.
Condition reports can also be produced for artworks requested for loan. For loan requests it is essential that the works are first assessed for their suitability (very fragile works may not be suitable for travel and display), and that they are accompanied by a detailed condition report, which includes an annotated image that records existing features or damage, and detailed photographs (if necessary). The report also states the appropriate light and humidity levels, the hanging, handling and packing requirements, and whether a physical barrier is needed (essential for unglazed works). In the unlikely event that any changes in condition to the artwork are noted, the report can establish whether these were pre-existing or are new. Harriet has extensive experience in producing condition reports prior to and after loan, for display, for purchase, and indemnity. She also offers training in condition-checking, collections care, art handling, and preventive conservation to gallery staff, auction houses, and private collectors.
All treatment options are discussed with the client, and all work carried out is fully documented. All work is fully insured. Large paintings can be treated on-site if it is safer and more economical than transportation to the studio.
Summary of services
Varnish removal and re-varnishing
Structural work such as the repair of tears or holes, and the correction of deformations in the support
Filling losses to the paint layer
Re-integration of missing areas of paint
Retouching surface damage
Preventive measures such as fitting stretcher-bar linings and backboards
Advise on good housekeeping practice (storage, display, transportation, handling)
Condition-checking for purchase, loan, and indemnity
Training in condition-checking, handling, packing, and transportation
Research into the materials used by modern and contemporary artists.
80 GBP per hour
No charges for estimates on single paintings within London
Collection and delivery service available
Transportation costs charged extra