A Second Chance
Dublin City Gallery Conservation and Care Programme
"We do use saliva. Honestly. It has particular chemical properties, and for a pre-clean on an even painting surface it brings things up beautifully. But not if you've eaten curry. Even if you've just eaten something quite bland, it takes about an hour for your saliva to revert to neutral. If you've had a curry the night before, forget it - you'll be out of action for days." - Hugh Lane Gallery's head of conservation Joanna Shepard
Like most galleries around the world Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane has works in our collection that cannot be displayed because they are in need of conservation treatment. Sometimes the level of intervention required is quite minimal but even the smallest level amount of conservation requires funds. Funds that are not available to the Gallery.
Following the lead of inspired galleries such as the Dulwich Picture Gallery and Auckland City Art Gallery, the Hugh Lane wants to give a selection of Irish artworks from our permanent collection A Second Chance. We are asking members of the public to sponsor works in need of treatment.
In return your name will appear on the picture’s label on the wall of the first Gallery of Modern art in the world. A”behind the scenes” visit to the conservator’s studio to see the work in progress will be arranged at a time that will suit you. You will have the option to be present for the picture’s unveiling when it goes on display in the Gallery and in some circumstances there maybe an opportunity to use the image on a greeting card free of charge.
Listed below are a several paintings that are in need of restoration before they are exhibited in the Gallery’s The Collection Revealed” series this year.
An Irish Pilot
This wonderful painting by one of Ireland’s best loved portrait painters John Lavery features the fascinating Lady Heath, born Sophie Pierce Evans in Limerick. For a five-year period from the mid-1920s, pilot Lady Mary Heath was one of the best-known women in the world. It was an era when everyone had gone aviation mad, she was the first woman to parachute and the first woman to gain a commercial pilot’s licence. In 1928 Lady Heath made front-page news worldwide as the first pilot ever, male or female, to fly a small, open cockpit plane solo from Cape Town to London. Back home in Ireland in the 1930s, she was reputed to have landed her plane on every flat field in the country.
This fine portrait is in good condition, but its valuable, ornate frame is suffering from extensive flaking of the gilding. This requires urgent attention from a gilding conservator before it can be displayed. Intriguingly, the portrait appears to have been painted over a different composition and we hope to investigate this fascinating possibility by x-raying the painting.
Conservation costs €3000
Mother and Child
This portrait was painted in London shortly after Lavery and Hazel married, this is the earliest known portrait by the artist of his five-year-old step-daughter Alice and perhaps may be seen as Lavery documenting the arrival of his new family. At this time few people knew of Lavery's second marriage and when the painting was exhibited there was speculation as to the identity of the sitters. Hazel's dark apparel may suggest that she was still in mourning since the death of her mother in June 1909. This painting was never sold and remained in the artist's home until his death. It was willed to Alice, who donated it to the Hugh Lane Gallery. Water damage has severely compromised the structural and aesthetic integrity of this important work, making it a special priority for treatment. Consequent shrinkage of the canvas, along with substantial lifting and flaking of the paint layer, demand complex structural treatment to stabilise the painting and prevent further deterioration. Moreover extensive restoration work is required to address the aged, darkened and water damaged varnish layer, which is considerably obscuring the image beneath.
Conservation costs €9,000
While May Guinness came to painting relatively late in life, she was to study with some of the most well known artists of early modernism. She also exhibited and travelled widely during her long lifetime and was a collector of modern art. In Still Life Guinness graphically articulates the solidity of the various objects she is painting by using thick black outlines and by emphasising strong contrasts of light and shade. The sophisticated compositional arrangement of this work sees a juxtaposition of vertical, horizontal and diagonal lines combined with lively decorative patterns, and heightened with areas of pure colour.
Guinness was a highly inventive artist and chose to paint this important cubist-influenced composition on a gesso ground. While this gave a beautiful, matt quality to the paint, it has had the unfortunate effect of making the paint prone to flaking and damage. The painting requires urgent consolidation to secure the paint layers and treat areas of damage and will likely prove to be a complex and painstaking treatment.
Conservation costs €1800
Mainie Jellett has earned her place in the history of Irish art, along with her fellow artist Evie Hone, as one of the first Irish painters to exhibit abstract art in Ireland. Such abstract paintings were based upon rigorous teachings of the French artist Albert Gleizes. She worked for a number of years in this manner but gradually found it too confining and she wished to reintroduce recognisable subject matter without what she called 'the materialism of the so-called academic tradition. In 1935, she visited an exhibition of Chinese art at the Royal Academy in London and she found in this a combination of recognisable subjects incorporating the rhythmic forms of abstract painting.
This jewel-like painting has responded to its environment over the years and has developed pronounced, raised cracks. These interrupt the composition and the viewer’s ‘reading’ of the painting, and it is now necessary to use controlled applications of heat, moisture and adhesive to flatten and secure the cracking areas. The painting has also become dirty and requires surface cleaning to restore the brilliance of the colours.
Conservation costs €1900