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Pathways available to students who study on our Conservation of Fine Art degree.

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.

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, artists’ maquettes, children’s board games and pop-up books are also commonly 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 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 significantly widened in recent years and regularly they are called upon to assist or develop collection care strategies, uphold exhibition and archival housing standards as well as engaging in research, advocacy and training. The Profession therefore attracts highly proficient and intellectual individuals who not only possess significant practical skills but a proficiency in technical art history and the science of artist and conservation materials.

Opportunities for employment are varied and can be found worldwide in museums, galleries, archives and libraries as well as within the private sector.

Easel Paintings

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 medieval 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.

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