Weston Norton

Docent Sara Harvey tells the story of Saint Agatha, patron of natural catastrophes, and explains the restoration process of various paintings during the Restoration and Revelation art walk at The Blanton Museum on Thursday afternoon.

Photo Credit: Yamel Thompson | Daily Texan Staff

The Blanton Museum of Art gave a sneak peak into how paintings and drawings are restored during a tour Thursday afternoon. 

The tour, titled “Restoration and Revelation: Conserving the Suida-Manning Collection,” was led by docent Sarah Harvey. Throughout the tour, Harvey gave visitors an in-depth look at how museums restore and care for aged and damaged works of art.

“It’s a sight that you don’t ordinarily see when you come to the museum,” Harvey said. “It’s a behind-the-scenes tour and we’ve never done that before.”

Harvey led visitors through pieces in the Suida-Manning Collection, which contains European Renaissance and Baroque art. She also described how the different paintings had been previously painted over, folded and damaged by caustic paint.  

Museum visitor Weston Norton listened to Harvey tell the story of how conservators intricately restored and cleaned a painting called “The Death of Rachel” by Antonio Carneo for more than 500 hours. Harvey explained to tour members including Norton that restorative efforts are often quickly reversible. She said when conservators paint over cracks or alter the state of a piece, all changes could be washed off in less than an hour. 

“I didn’t know that you could clean a painting in 25 minutes of all of the restorative work after spending 500 hours restoring it, and I think it’s pretty amazing,” Norton said. “It’s a pretty phenomenal labor of trust to spend all that time doing that.”

Harvey also talked about a painting called “Saint Agatha” by Pacecco De Rosa and explained how an improper environment caused the wood panel that it was painted on to develop cracks and knots, weakening the painting’s structure.   

Amy Greenspan, a visitor and student employment coordinator for UT Human Resource Services, looked up close to see a type of stabilizer used to keep the wood from damaging the painting. 

“Without the restoration you really can’t appreciate what it looked like and what the artist had in mind,” Greenspan said. “The restoration helps modern viewers see what the artist intended.” 

After the tour, Greenspan said it was an interesting experience and her appreciation grew for the work put into conserving the art in the collection. 

“You look at the paintings in the gallery and have no idea what kind of work went into making them presentable and bringing them to their best for people’s viewing pleasures,” Greenspan said. “It gives you more appreciation for what you’re seeing.”

Published on February 22, 2013 as "Blanton tour gives insight into art".