Conservation of Fine Art MA
COURSE INFORMATION (2013 ENTRY)
18 months, full-timeArts, Design and Social Sciences
Burt Hall, Newcastle City Campus
Fine art conservation is a multidisciplinary practice.
The programme starts from the assumption that students may be relatively unfamiliar with some aspects of the subject.
Works of Art on Paper
The field of fine art paper conservation involves the preservation, cleaning and repair of a wide range of valuable and ephemeral objects such as artist’s prints and drawings, watercolours, posters, broadsides, historic wallpapers and specialised collections of Oriental and Middle Eastern art works including India and Persian miniatures, Chinese and Japanese scrolls and screens. Related materials including papyrus, illuminated manuscripts and three dimensional paper artefacts such as globes, artist’s macquets, children’s board games and pop-up books may also be treated by a paper conservator.
Paper objects are particularly vulnerable to light, humidity and air pollutants as well as contact with harmful materials such as acidic backboards, pressure sensitive tapes and ill-fitting frames. Deterioration can also occur through improper handling and exposure to active mould spores. The ultimate goal of a paper conservator is to stabilise objects to ensure their continual existence. This not only entails state of the art treatment techniques on individual items but extends to the preservation needs of an entire collection.
The growing collections world-wide of modern and contemporary art present their own unique problems, particularly in regards to mixed-media and large scale formats. This has led to the development of a number of innovative and cross-discipline treatment procedures and collaborative research projects between National and International institutions. The scope of the paper conservators’ work has therefore widened in recent years and they are often involved with issues relating to collections care such as developing and maintaining archival housing standards, exhibitions, advocacy and project management.
Easel Paintings Conservation
The role of the easel paintings conservator involves the general care, protection, repair and cleaning of works of art in oil, egg tempera, distemper, acrylic, or other media. This includes works of art on a great variety of supports, including canvas, board, wood panel and metals. A professional easel painting conservator could be involved with works of art as diverse as early mediaeval religious images to large contemporary artefacts, often in mixed media.
Extremely high levels of practical skill and intellectual understanding are required for both the treatment and analysis of historical and technical aspects of paintings. Detailed examination and technical interpretation of works of art forms the basis of working practice, enabling the professional paintings conservator to make informed treatment decisions. The collation and dissemination of historical and technical data stems from an in-depth understanding of the subject.
Opportunities for employment can be found in both the public sector, in museums and galleries, as well as within private studios. Professional easel painting conservators often liaise closely with a range of museum staff, including front of house, curatorial and interpretation officers, when preparing individual paintings or collections for exhibition, display, loan or long-term storage. Other diverse aspects of the work of an easel painting conservator might include preparing paintings for transportation, couriering works, assessing environmental conditions, surveying collections, report writing, planning and tendering for work, carrying out research and public speaking.
LEARNING AND TEACHING METHODS
The MA Conservation of Fine Art commences with modules that provide an understanding of conservation theory and practice, the chemistry of degradation of artists materials and scientific principles involved in environmental monitoring and management. These modules build critical awareness contextual skills for conservation.
The MA Conservation of Fine Art offers two distinct pathways: Works of Art on Paper and Easel Painting and the remainder of your programme is designed to reflect your choice of specialism.
Both specialisms are taught in Burt Hall, a Grade II listed building in the heart of Northumbria University’s City campus. This historic building, which dates back to the 1890s, has been purposely adapted for conservation training and provides well equipped, flexible laboratories and studios for the needs of the student.
A series of innovative practical workshops culminate in the creation of your own Professional Portfolio which effectively showcases a number of key skills appropriate to the changing needs of the profession. Workshops are problem-orientated and use a wide range of methods and materials including demonstrations, facsimiles, project paintings, cases studies and unique artefacts from the Burt Hall archive.
Extensive practical activities are supported by a series of technical seminars, tutorials and on-line lectures whose aim is explore the links between theoretical study and activities of the practitioner. Students also develop their skills and understanding in examining and documenting artworks, health and safety procedures and are taught the importance of strategic planning and time management skills.
Significant emphasis is also placed on ethics and developing research, critical and diagnostic skills and fostering awareness of the wider professional context particularly in matters of sustainability.
Graduates of the MA programme compete successfully for positions of assistant conservation officer in museums and art galleries, whilst many progress to internships in national museums in this country or abroad. Graduates also work for practising conservators in the independent sector.
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Northumbria University has taken reasonable care to ensure that the information published is accurate at the time of publication. However, the University gives no warranty or representation as to the quality, accuracy or completeness of the information.