The Conservation of Guy Wiggins – Episode 4: “Becoming Whole Again”

The Conservation of Guy Wiggins –  Episode 4: “Becoming Whole Again”


Up to this point all of the work has been
focused on removal. That is, removal of the surface grime and
varnish, the old lining and the adhesive. But now we can shift gears and start to work
to put the painting back together. With the vapor treatment complete we can see
a marked improvement in the surface with the appearance of the cracks all but eliminated. The previous lining was likely added in an
attempt to remove the appearance of the cracks but unfortunately it caused more trouble than
help. When the water-based glue was applied it reactivated
the sizing and swelled the original canvas. And as the glue dried and the water evaporated
the original canvas began to shrink causing tension on the paint layer. And as oxidized oil paint isn’t flexible and
can’t move with the canvas it breaks and begins to lift. To ensure that these cracks stay put and that
none of the paint that was loose and threatening detachment is lost an adhesive impregnation
will be executed. With the canvas free of the old rabbit skin glue, a reversible conservation adhesive can be thinned to the desired consistency and
the canvas saturated. The adhesive will penetrate into the canvas
and up through the cracks and into the voids where the paint layer has separated. With the adhesive dry the painting can be
transferred to the hot table. To ensure that the painting isn’t bonded to
the table it will be sandwiched between layers of release film. A cotton ribbon will surround the painting
and terminate at a suction port in the corner of the table thus enabling the evacuation
of any air in the pocket created for the painting. The table will slowly be heated to activate
the adhesive and once it has achieved the correct temperature adjustable vacuum pressure
will be applied. The pressure will force the adhesive into
all of the gaps between the cracks and as the table cools and the adhesive sets it will
also ensure that the detaching paint is secured back to the canvas. While the original canvas is largely in good
condition the repeated previous conservations have taken a toll on the tacking edge, which
is frayed, torn and of questionable structural integrity. To ensure that the tacking edge maintains
fidelity a new piece of Belgian linen will be adhered to the painting. The edge of the linen is frayed to prevent
a hard-edged terminus and to provide more surface area for the adhesive film. This new tacking edge will not only provide
substantial support for the tacks, it will also buttress the fold at the stretcher edge
and provide more material during the stretching process that enables proper tensioning of
the canvas. Whenever heat is applied to a painting it
must be followed by pressure to ensure that there’s no deformation of any of the materials
as ambient moisture is evaporated. In addition to making sure that the painting
is clean and in stable condition it’s important to ensure that the stretcher is also well
cared for. The cleaning of the support affords an opportunity
to examine it for any markings, signatures, stamps, labels and most importantly any defects
or faults. This support is in fine condition if a bit
dirty and will not warrant any repair. During the cleaning we can see the indentations
from the pulling pliers used during the last stretching. The depth and intensity of these indentations
indicate that extreme tension was placed on the canvas, likely in an attempt to pull the
canvas flat and eliminate the appearance of the cracks. Preparing the stretcher for the painting is
relatively simple but care must be taken to ensure that the support is square. Nailing the corners in place will keep the
support form distorting and can be removed once the canvas is stretched. The stretching process begins with the orientation
of the painting on the support. Using the existing crease lines as a guide
the painting will be fitted to the support as it was originally. I’ll be using steel tacks to affix the canvas
to the support and begin by securing the middle of each edge thus ensuring that the center
of the canvas is under proper tension. Once those first tacks are driven I will work
from the center toward the corners using a pulling plier to apply even tension to the
whole canvas. Depending on the size of the painting, weight
of the canvas and condition of the support the tacks may be placed anywhere from one
to two inches apart. When I reach the corners I like to tuck the
canvas under itself and drive in a few tacks. I feel it’s a cleaner look and more secure
without cutting any of the original material away. At this point the excess linen on the tacking
edge has mostly served its purpose but rather than cutting it off and letting it fray or
gluing it to the stretcher I choose to fold it under itself and secure it to the verso
of the support using smaller tacks. While these tacks aren’t the primary means
of holding the painting to the support they will provide a bit of resistance when tensioning
the canvas and help keep the painting from distorting. And while the back of the painting might not
be the focus of the work there’s no reason that it can’t be treated with the same care
and respect as the front. We’ve now come to the conclusion of the structural
work. The painting is stable and sound and physically
in as good of a condition as it has ever been.

100 thoughts on “The Conservation of Guy Wiggins – Episode 4: “Becoming Whole Again”

  1. Do you take any steps to document your work in detail for possible future conservators, so they don't have to make any guesses about varnishes, glues, etc?

  2. i wait for these videos and have your post notifications on. it really does amaze me what a discrete and precise practise painting restoration is, and i can't help feeling that i want to see and know more about the subject as i watch your videos. you're the only restorer i've found with such clear explanations of your processes combined with the beautiful filming of the product from start to finish. i couldn't imagine having never found your channel.

  3. I would really like to know how you became on someone to do this. there seems to be a lot of equipment and tools that do not seem cheap

  4. I love watching this process, thanks so much for sharing, as i know how long filming and editing take. Many thanks once again 🔪🔬📍⛺🎨🎬🎥🔨💦🌟🌟

  5. I think it would be very interesting for you to come across a painting that you restored previously and you undo your own previous work

  6. I don't even paint or draw or do anything remotely related to art conservation but I love these videos so much!!

  7. Watching your videos, I've come to the conclusion that you absolutely despise 3 things.
    3. Rabbit-skin Glue
    2. Linseed Oil
    1. Motherfucking staples

  8. Could you please do a like very long in depth video and could you give the names of the products you use so we know what your using? You

  9. The dedication and care you have for each conservation is admirable. I hope that the conservationists in the future who have to restore the paintings you touch show the same dedication!

  10. Thank you once again in presenting us with a true art form. Simply amazed as to the depth of your knowledge, level of care and expertise that goes into the conservation of these beautiful works of art. Though we are only seeing but the briefest snapshots of your craft, thank you for those glimpses. As to others comments, I could watch for hours as well, thank you…

  11. I die every time you post a new video. Your work is incredible and your videos are so nicely & artistically put together.

  12. Wait so, Belgian linen is made from flax, and so is linseed oil, right? That is amazing. An oil painting is a flax plant reuniting its parts. A sense of becoming whole again.

  13. Honestly some of the best content on YouTube. Who else makes such entertaining and informative videos? No one! And it’s of such important cultural significance! I’m not an artist, and most people aren’t, but so few people truly grasp the importance of art. I remember back in 4th or 5th grade my Social Studies teacher had the class look at a picture from an archeological dig at some ruins somewhere in Eastern Europe. Without remembering exactly what she said she asked us to identify in the picture the object that gave archeologists the ability to distinguish the ancient people as sufficiently advanced enough to have moved beyond a primitive state and be said to have had culture and civilization. Everyone in the class, including myself, gave all sorts of answers from the bricks, the walls, the tools, pots, etc., only to be continually wrong. Finally the teacher pointed out a small bust or some other small sculpture and said that it was because of the appearance of art. I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but I’ve never forgotten that lesson. Art is what separates animals from man. Art is an expression of the human soul. It is an imitation of the Divine work of creation. It is a proof of our creation in the image and likeness of God. Art, being as inherently transformative as it is, has a twofold effect on us: In our creation of art we are elevated as a species from mere animals and in viewing art our minds, hearts, and souls are elevated through the appreciation of that beauty which is a reflection of God’s own beauty. I pray that we never lose touch with this part of our culture and thanks to your fine work this vital part of our culture lives on. I cannot encourage you enough in this endeavor of yours. Many thanks and may God bless you.

  14. Que hermosos videos. Me encanta ver tu trabajo. Ojalá subas más pronto.
    This video is beautiful. I love watch your work it's facinating. I hope you do more of it.

  15. Love this! You give amazing attention to each step and detail. Have you ever considered a Q & A stream with veiwers?

  16. I grin like an idiot every time you mention Belgian linen. I’m always like: “YES THAT’S MY COUNTRY, WE MAKE GOOD LINEN THAT IS STRONGER THAN COTTON, FUCK ALL THE OTHER FABRICS!!” I’m probably crazy but idgaf because I love My Country

  17. Is anyone else disappointed that there wasn’t any mention of the dreaded staples and why they’re so inferior to use?!?

  18. Am I the only one who thinks these videos are super calming?

    Like… I mostly watch the videos when it's late in the evening and for me it's even better then ASMR

  19. I have a few inherited paintings that need some work and oooh, I wish I could send them to you! You take such good care…

  20. "while the back of the painting might not be the focus of the work, there is no reason that it can’t be treated with the same care and respect as the front." this is why you're our favorite lol

  21. Future restorers who might potentially conserve this piece must be lucky with the conservation process fully documented and online.

  22. What is the reason for fraying the edge of the pieces of Beligum linen before ironing it on the canvas? Also I love how tidy you make the corners on the back look!

  23. Huge respect for any conservationist. It's a job that requires many hours of learning to master the art of science, research, carpentry, anthropologie, digital forensics, definite attention to details, and painting… i might even have left off a few! Salute 👏

  24. @Baumgartner Restoration
    What is the reason for steel tacks? Why not stainless? I would think that rust could be an issue at some point in the future.

  25. Can "adhesive impregnation" be undone? It's mentioned that a "reversible adhesive" was used, but does that even matter?

  26. Id definitely watch this on Netflix. If he has done famous paintings like Mona Lisa or those farmer wife and husband picture, he would become a billionaire and still love to watch

  27. То,что вы делаете- прекрасно.такая важная,нужная,сложная работа.просто потрясающе.С огромным уважением к вашему труду и терпению.Россия,Крым.

  28. What a beautiful piece, just found this channel and it’s wonderful. Is sad that the previous conservationist was so unprofessional, I with people would not attempt these things without skill

  29. I watch these when I’m high. And every time, I think about how neat it would be to marry into a family of restorators. This is so cool.

  30. I love the videos about the conservation process. However, I am literally crying when he removes the signs of aging from the painting and uses new materials. That is not authentic!! AAAAAhhhhh You are removing the history of the painting. The experiences it went through.

  31. i'm a bit surprised that so much damage has happened to such a relatively recent painting. some bad handling, eh?

  32. Do you have a book that describes your materials as far as what to clean with Etc. Or is that a trade secret?? Great videos very interesting

  33. I'm not a crier by any means… but I actually got a little teary when he said, "it's in as good condition as it's ever been." The love that has gone into this painting by both the artist and the subsequent artist (for surely conservation is an art in and of itself) is very moving.

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