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BAPCR 'Tales of the Unexpected' in Conservation Talks

The British Association of Paintings Conservator-Restorers (BAPCR)

From: Wednesday 26.08.20
at 7:00pm
To: Wednesday 26.08.20
at 8:00pm

Online via Zoom


Tickets £5 each


The BAPCR are delighted to announce that many of the speakers from the BAPCR conference in January 2020 have agreed to give their talks again. Here are the details of our Zoom talks on the 26th August 2020 at 7pm.

Event description: 

Chair: Claire Shepherd The British Association of Paintings Conservator-Restorers (BAPCR) Council


Professor Aviva Burnstock Courtauld Institute of Art; Sarah MacDougall Ben Uri Gallery and Museum

‘Beneath the Surface: intention and practice in the early work of Mark Gertler’

Miranda Brain Bowes Museum

‘Landscape or Portrait? Ethical Considerations on the Treatment of a Partially Cleaned Painting’

These talks are free of charge for all BAPCR members. A limited number of non-members can book a place at these talks for £5 per guest. Please email for a Zoom invitation and payment details.


Professor Aviva Burnstock, Sarah MacDougall

Beneath the Surface: intention and practice in the early work of Mark Gertler

A technical and art historical study of paintings produced by Mark Gertler (1891-1939) between 1911 and 1918, during a period of profound stylistic development, has provided new insights into intention and practice in the artist’s work. The project was sparked by the discovery via X-radiography of an underpainting beneath a tiny landscape on panel, The Pond, Garsington (1916, Private Collection), uncovering a carousel with rudimentary horses running around its base. Not only previously unknown, but also unique, the discovery of this preliminary oil study for Gertler’s Merry-Go-Round (1916, Tate) – his most outstanding contribution to early British modernism, painted at the height of the First World War – is also significant in establishing the genesis of the painting and helping to chart the artist’s journey into the modern.

The study investigated further paintings from this crucial early period revealing how the artist’s experiments with different painting styles reflect a range of influences encompassing both Renaissance art and the work of his contemporary modernists. These developments are investigated in a technical study of his works compared with contemporary written sources that provide commentary on his early painting practices. The paintings investigated include Talmudic Discussion (1911, Private Collection), The Rabbi and His Grandchild (1913, Southampton City Art Gallery), Family Group (1913, Southampton City Art Gallery), The Fruit Sorters (1914, Leicester City Gallery), The Creation of Eve (1914, Private Collection), The Pond, Garsington (1916, Private Collection), The Pond at Garsington, Oxford (1916, Leeds Art Gallery), Gilbert Cannan and his Mill (1916, Ashmolean, Oxford) and Still Life with Self Portrait (ca. 1918, Leeds Art Gallery).

A study of written sources (primarily letters) by the artist and his contemporaries – fellow artists, friends, dealers and associates – exploring the artist’s development of composition and working methods was made alongside first-hand technical study, using methods including X-radiography, infrared imaging and pigment analysis to uncover the processes and materials used for painting. The technical themes address the question of whether changes in Gertler’s painting style were paralleled by changes in his painting materials and techniques. Technical examination has shown how the artist reused his supports and revealed changes made to his paintings that are discussed in his letters. The study highlights the relationship between intention and practice in the paintings of this critical period of change in the artist’s work.


Sarah MacDougall is Head of Collections and Head of the Ben Uri Research Unit examining the émigré contribution to the visual arts in Britain since 1900 at Ben Uri Gallery and Museum. She has worked extensively on the early British modernist Jewish artists known as the ‘Whitechapel Boys’, including a biography (John Murray, 2002) and catalogue raisonné (in progress, Yale University Press) on Mark Gertler, and touring exhibitions and monographs (coauthored with Rachel Dickson) on David Bomberg (2017) and Isaac Rosenberg (Ben Uri, 2009), also contributing to peer-reviewed publications including London, Modernism, and 1914 (Cambridge University Press, 2010). She has curated Gertler exhibitions in 2002 and 2012, and most recently, a Gertler Spotlight Room at Tate Britain (2018) and is working on two further exhibitions for 2019. She has published widely on refugee artists in Britain.

Professor Aviva Burnstock is Head of the Department of Conservation & Technology at the Courtauld Institute of Art, London, where she took a Ph.D. (1991) and a Postgraduate Diploma in the Conservation of Easel Paintings (1984). She was a Joop Los Fellow at the Institute for Molecular Physics (FOM/AMOLF) in Amsterdam, Netherlands (2003-5). From 1986-1992 she worked in the Scientific Department of the National Gallery, London after a year as a conservator in Australia with the Regional Galleries Association of New South Wales. She has a BSc. in Neurobiology from the University of Sussex, England. She has published widely in the field of painting techniques and materials and aspects of conservation practice.


Miranda Brain, Jon Old

Landscape or Portrait? Ethical Considerations on the Treatment of a Partially Cleaned Painting

In the collection of The Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle, there is a painting with an unusual history. A landscape attributed to Karel Dujardin (1622-1678) was, at some point in its past, partially removed to reveal the portrait of a woman. An inscription identifies the sitter as the Dowager Princesse de Conti, Marie Anne de Bourbon (1666-1739). As she did not become widowed until 1685, seven years after Dujardin’s death, Dujardin could not have painted the landscape, nor could he have painted the underlying portrait, unless the inscription was added by a later hand. This discovery raises several questions: Who painted the portrait? Who painted the landscape? Why was the portrait painted over with a landscape? How should the painting be treated in its partially cleaned state? And does the painting’s history affect how we approach its treatment?

The treatment of a painting with such a complex history provokes a number of ethical concerns: should the original portrait be fully revealed, completely eradicating the landscape? Should the partial removal of the landscape at some time in the painting’s past now be considered part of the history of the painting and thus further cleaning avoided? Or should the painting be conserved at all? This study will explore the possible treatment options for this painting and discuss the ethical considerations which must be addressed.


Miranda Brain studied at the University of St Andrews, Scotland, gaining an MA (Honours) in the History of Art. After graduation, she went on to study at Northumbria University, gaining an MA with distinction in the Conservation of Fine Art, with a specialism in easel painting. Her special interest in the methods and materials of 18th century portrait painters resulted in a prize for the best dissertation which she wrote on ‘The Methods and Materials of Gainsborough Dupont (1754-1797)’. During her time as a student, she undertook placements at Museum Conservation Services, Cambridge, the Guildhall Art Gallery, London, and The Trumpington Gallery, Cambridge. She continued to work in the conservation department of the Trumpington Gallery until taking up the post as the Heritage Lottery and ICON funded Painting Conservation Intern at the Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle in County Durham. After the end of her internship in October 2019, she took up post as Assistant Painting Conservator at Royal Museums, Greenwich, where she is currently based.

Jon Old trained as an Easel Painting Conservator at Gateshead Technical College in the early 1980s gaining a diploma in conservation. After working as a self-employed conservator for five years he held several positions at Tyne and Wear Museums starting as the Painting Conservator, then Senior Conservator and Collections Services Manager, leading a team of conservators and documentation staff. In the latter part of the 1990s and early 2000s he worked on a number of large, HLF funded, conservation projects that delivered new galleries, stores and facilities to Sunderland Museum, Newcastle Discovery, Segedumum, South Shields Museum and Art Gallery, The Laing Art Gallery and the Museum of the North. In 2007 he moved to the Bowes Museum in County Durham, returning to full time painting conservation and set up a five-year ICON internship programme funded by the HLF Skills For the Future Programme. He helped to deliver new stores and galleries before becoming part of the senior management team. In 2019 he retired from full time employment to become a freelance conservator. His main interests throughout his career have been structural treatment of easel paintings and environmental control in museums.