Why are you bothering me with ethics, I want the painting to look antique!

In 1851, the famous French restorer, Horsin Deon described conservation policy in the Louvre, Paris:
I understand that the romantic amateur, who likes the “rust”, obfuscation and mold of old varnish uses it as a curtain behind which he can imagine what he wants to see. … [while]I can distinguish a work of excellence beneath the squalid crust.…
But here in the museum (in the Louvre), the highest quality museum in the world, the paintings need to look clean and full of light, and they are exhibited exposed and open.

The experienced Irish art restorer, Jim Mullin also wrote recently about the same issue:
The French impressionists changed our taste for art forever. Until that time, painters purposely darkened their pictures, attempting to imitate the Old Masters. But the Old Masters’ paintings, were in fact full of light and glowing colors, they only looked unclean.  It is possible that if they were kept clean for hundreds of years, the Impressionist movement wouldn't have been created at all.

We need to understand and remember that during historical times artists did not paint their glorious artworks and then say to themselves: O.K., it will look wonderful in another few decades when the painting absorbs a little air pollution, chimney smoke and cigarettes, polluted industrial and domestic dust, direct sunlight, radical alterations of temperature, blobs of foreign paint from reckless home painting, insect droppings and perhaps a few holes.
We are sure that the artists intended their works to look as they did when they drew the last stroke of their brush.  Today, the restorers who work for museums with a set tradition and ethics do not need to struggle to convince the curators and directors that their job is to bring the artworks to a condition as close as possible to their original state. However restorers who work in the private sector often encounter the artworks owners’ resistance when they attempt to treat the oeuvres according to the accepted criteria. Happily, in most cases my explanations accompanied by photos, convince most clients to allow me to bring the artworks to a desirable state.

 Michael Karo
© Copyright Karo Arts

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