European Art Conservation

/ Caring for Art

Unknown artist, 1556–1629, Marguerite de Steeland de Gand, Lady of Hasselt, detail, early 17th century, oil on canvas; Collection of the Art Fund, Inc. at the Birmingham Museum of Art; Gift of Mrs. Alma Patterson Wilson in memory of Hilton and Hazel Johnson AFI.22.1983

The European Art Department has been steadily working on the conservation of European paintings. The European Art Society and a number of generous patrons have funded multiple projects already and the first freshly conserved paintings have recently returned or will soon return to Birmingham.

The change often is dramatic. One of our important Flemish full-length portraits from about 1600 is being treated right now. As this photo attests, removing surface grime and dirty, old varnish is really transforming the appearance of the painting. Her skin is no longer a sickly yellow, but has brightened up significantly!

Improvements like this can be expected from a number of paintings in our collection. If you would like to get involved and help uncover their original beauty, please refer to our Adopt-an-Artwork program.