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    Liis-Marel Aak

  • Cultural Heritage and Conservation
  • BA
  • Conservation of works of art on paper with extensive paper losses. Case-studies of the oil painting "Raadi manor" and the monotype "Still life with a duck"
  • Tutor: Merike Kallas, Tõnu Uusküla

This bachelor’s thesis focuses on the conservation of two artworks created with oil paints on paper. The first oil painting “Raadi Manor” depicts the Raadi Manor painted in 1937. The second work “Still Life with a Duck” is a monotype made in 1961 by the Estonian artist Ano Mägi-Palm.

Monotype “Still life with a duck” before conservation. (Photo: author)
Monotype “Still life with a duck” after conservation. (Photo: author)
Oil painting “Raadi Manor” before conservation. (Photo: author)
Oil painting “Raadi Manor” after conservation. (Photo: author)

Although the artworks differ in terms of painting technique, with “Raadi Manor” executed in a manner following the structure of easelpainting and “Still Life with a Duck” belonging to the field of graphics and created using the monotype technique, they share commonalities in terms of materials used and the nature of damages. Both artworks have been executed with oil paints on paper, and both exhibit large-scale losses that penetrate the whole paper support.

The biggest loss of the painting “Raadi Manor”. (Photo: author)
The biggest loss of the monotype “Still life with a duck”. (Photo: author)

Compared to other types of artworks on paper, paper-oil paintings are not capable of maintaining their structural integrity and aesthetic appearance for an extended period. The main issues usually involve the degradation of cellulose, the primary component of paper; internal and external stresses between different layers; the penetration and spreading of oil-binding agents on the paper support and the discoloration of the paper support

The aim of the technical studies of the artwork “Still life with a duck” was to identify its structure, condition and materials used. The technical analysis provided a clear overview of the extent of damages to the artwork, which were not evident through visual observation alone. For instance, the image surface was covered with a layer of mold, and the identification of excrement from a larder beetle indicated that they were the cause of the deterioration of the paper support.

Insect excrement on the surface of the monotype “Still life with a duck”. (Photo: author)
Mold spores on the surface of the monotype “Still life with a duck”. (Photo: author)

The conservation process was supervised by Tõnu Uusküla, a conservator of works of art on paper from the Art Museum of Estonia, who also supervised major stages such as restoration of paint losses using layer-by-layer Japanese paper and wet paper pulp casting methods, as well as lining the artworks onto a new structural support. Of the two artworks, conservation of the oil painting “Raadi Manor,” which was created on thick cardboard and exhibited significant losses in the paint layers as well as the painting support, posed the greatest challenge, as its unique features required thorough research of materials and the development of suitable conservation methods. As a result of these experiments, a suitable methodology was developed, leading to the successful completion of the painting’s conservation.

Repairing the damage to the painting “Raadi Manor” with Japanese paper. (Photo: author)

The following bachelor’s thesis document is in Estonian.