Study day: New research into Glasgow Museums’ Collections
The study day, organised by the National Gallery and Glasgow Museums and supported by The Pilgrim Trust, formed part of the Subject Specialist Network: European Paintings pre-1900
New research in Glasgow Museums
Vivien Hamilton, Research Manager (Art), Glasgow Museums
Vivien is part of Glasgow Museum’s research department. She manages various research projects including the Burrell Tapestry project, which is working with two international scholars to research and publish a scholarly catalogue and is funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and the Burrell Trustees. She co-supervises a collaborative doctoral award student with the University of York, researching the international trade in stained glass in relation to Sir William Burrell’s collection.
Marie Stumpf, Senior Conservator, has been awarded a Fellowship from the Clothworkers Guild to research and conserve the Boppard glass at the Burrell. Further research on the collection has been conducted by interns and placement students.
With regard to the European paintings pre-1900, the collection has been researched for the National Inventory Research Project, and individual curators have produced research such as Robert Wenley’s work on the Dutch 17th century paintings, and Vivien’s ongoing research on the French 19th century paintings at Kelvingrove and the Burrell collection.
A Collaborative Doctoral Awards student researched the 19th century Dutch paintings, but she now has a full-time job and might not be able to finish the project. The co-publication of ‘Glasgow Museums: The Italian paintings’ by Unicorn Press (see Peter Humfrey’s afternoon talk) is a major outcome, and Unicorn will also publish Vivien’s work on the tapestries.
Research on the Donors of Paintings to Glasgow Museum
Dr Frances Dryburgh, Volunteer, Glasgow Museums
Vivien Hamilton set up a group of volunteers, often drawn from Glasgow Museums’s volunteer guide group, to research the lesser known donors of art to Glasgow Museums.
The group consists of around 14 people, from a variety of occupations, including scientist, teacher, historian, librarian, accountant and lawyer. They meet regularly and so far have researched 120 donors, and around 300 paintings.
In the question and answer discussion Frances explained that the group follow a rigorous procedure for recording the documentation. She gave a case study which showed how she has used the various research resources in Glasgow to find out more about a donor of paintings called Mrs Lindsay, and further information about the collector Sir Claude Phillips.
Conserving Glasgow’s Italian Paintings
Polly Smith, Senior Conservator (Art Group) Glasgow Museums
Polly explained that preparing the works for ’The Essence of Beauty: 500 Years of Italian Art’ has been a major project since 2008. It involved preparing 46 paintings for the exhibition in Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, a tour to Compton Verney and then a tour of several American museums, and preparing technical notes on 150 paintings for the catalogue. The department also had to work on all the other Glasgow Museum exhibitions across its ten venues but received some funding from Museums Galleries Scotland for a one year freelance contract.
Polly also explained that the work that needed the greatest treatment was the ‘Adoration of the Magi', by an unkown Neapolitan artist which had not been on public display for over 25 years because of its poor condition. Treatment involved the removal of aged varnish and discoloured retouching, consolidation of flaking paint, filling of losses and modification of restored pastiligia and finally extensive retouching. A timelapse film of the conservation work is on display next to the painting in the exhibition.
Suzanne Ross, Painting Conservator, summarised the technical examination techniques employed throughout the project and the use of historical records to help with conservation decisions. She described several treatments that she has undertaken representing structural work to canvas supports, consolidation, varnish removal, filling and retouching.
Sophie Kostin, Frame Conservator explained that she had worked on around 40 frames. Treatments included the replacement of missing ornament, cleaning, re-gilding and toning. All the frames are fitted with specialist glazing and backboards to protect the paintings during the tour.
New reproduction late 15th-century tabernacle frames were commissioned for two major Renaissance paintings: Botticelli’s ‘Annunication’ and Bellini’s ‘Madonna and Child’. In response to a question, Sophie explained that the original frames are kept in storage as they represent part of the history of the painting.