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Leaving a legacy

Patrick Lindsay's bequest: A day in the life of a Conservation Fellow

Patrick Lindsay trained as a conservator at the National Gallery in the 1950s. In 2012 he left a generous bequest that, so far, has funded four 22-month fellowships. Antonella Casaccia and Claire Shepherd share some of their experiences during their time as Conservation Fellows at the Gallery.

The life of a Fellow in the Conservation Department is varied, touching on all aspects of the day-to-day care of the collection with a constant focus on what Patrick Lindsay felt was most important for early career conservators: time spent in the studio working on the treatment of paintings.

As Fellows we are fully immersed in the work of the department, which gives us the opportunity to benefit from the wealth of knowledge and expertise of our colleagues, learning from the treatments being carried out by the Gallery’s conservators and gaining from their input and insight. We have worked on a diverse array of projects throughout our Fellowships, including Flemish, Italian, Dutch and French paintings, spanning the 16th to the 19th centuries. No two treatments are the same, and our work can involve removing or reducing discoloured varnishes and old restorations, consolidating fragile areas of paint, and retouching old areas of damage. 

A given day might start with dusting the works on display, precious time alone with the paintings before the galleries open to the public, before we carry out condition checks on paintings that are heading out to other museums on loan and spend the remaining time carrying out the practical restoration work on paintings.

As conservators, it’s vital for us to understand how a painting was made and the life it has lived in the intervening centuries before we start treatment. We address the different faces to these questions by collaborating with our colleagues in the Scientific and Curatorial Departments, a much-valued opportunity for us.

Whether we are at the easel on a focused project, or working on the everyday conservation tasks involved in caring for a national collection, we are grateful to be in the position to both learn from, and contribute to, the conservation of these exceptional paintings.

If you are inspired by this story, the generosity of the late Mr Patrick Lindsay, and the National Gallery, perhaps you would consider remembering us in your will. A gift of any size, large or small, will have a lasting impact on our work and help to develop and maintain the collection, keep the Gallery free, and continue enriching the lives of future generations.

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To discuss what your support could achieve, please contact Meredith Loper in the Development Office on 020 7747 5982 or by email at:

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