Recently we’ve been doing some work surveying our arts store, a controlled environment which has a large number of artworks from the Collection. We noticed a little while ago that there are some unusual environmental fluctuations, so we were obviously keen to put aside some time to investigate the issue thoroughly.
Our arts store is kept between 40-60% humidity to store the objects in the correct environment
We also took the opportunity to review the general state of various items in the store. In particular we paid close attention to the paintings, assessing the condition of the canvas and varnish, accretions of dirt, any biological damage or chemical deterioration and any repair done in the past that may be starting to deteriorate.
The following portrait by George Percy Jacomb-Hood shows the kind of deteriorating paintwork we wanted to record. Believed to be the artist’s father, it depicts Robert Jacomb-Hood (1822 – 190) who was the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway’s consulting engineer and a director from 1883 of the railway. The picture is framed but unglazed, hence the state of the paint below.
Similarly, we found an oil-on-canvas portrait of Ralph Brocklebank, one-time Director of the London & North Western Railway. Although a cursory look seems fine, a deeper inspection looking at the back of the canvas reveals that much of the paint is starting to crack that in time will show visible deterioration.
We couldn’t have done the review of the store without help from students of York University, so a huge thanks to Zoe Dawson, Sian Johnson, Izabella McKie, Ru Wei Hu, Kalina Kossowska and Helena Marshall.
There is a bonus of spending significant time in our arts store – I get to come across many gems that I either had forgotten about or had not known about at all! For example, I love this oil on canvas, by Jack Merriott, depicting Torquay in 1958. It shows the promenade, with holidaymakers walking among palm trees beneath red sandstone cliffs. It was the original artwork for British Railways (Western Region) poster ‘Go to Torquay, Queen of the English Riviera’, part of the ‘Travel by Train’ series.
On a similar vein, there is also a more Mediterranean interpretation of good old Scarborough by Constantin Gorbatoff’s oil on canvas:
One of Helena’s particular favourites is this painting by Robert Collinson. It depicts a cavalry soldier in the uniform of a hussar regiment bidding farewell to his nearest-and-dearest, who, on the verge of tears, clasps his hand in hers. Behind her a bearded guard holding a green flag raises his left hand to signal that the train is ready to depart and their time is nearly up
This post was jointly written by Wendy Somerville-Woodiwis and Helena Marshall.