The removal of the thick varnish layer continues to make a huge difference to the look of the painting, revealing the original colours and some lost details that Turner originally painted. It is also showing that there is quite a lot of wear and some small damages too, which may have been caused by it being on a castle wall for a long time. It’s also possible that this painting may have been treated unkindly by people working on it in the past. Turner used lots of different techniques. The photos show how dramatic the change to the painting is, and also some of Turners original intentions for this piece. We can see that the painting is more about light and atmosphere than detail.
The thinning of varnish has uncovered areas of the painting that are more challenging, particularly in the darker brown areas. In some places it becomes difficult to determine where past restoration finishes and Turner begins. This means I will need to do some more analysis on these particular areas, in order to gain information that will help us treat the painting with the care it deserves.
There is still some varnish on the sky and the mid-ground which I will continue to clean while deciding the best course of action for the sensitive areas. The details of the castle are coming through nicely with the removal of the obscuring varnish. We can also see that the painting looks as though it was painted on a pleasant summer’s evening, which was not as evident when I first starting treating it.
We had some more attention from a local newspaper, The Teesdale Mercury, which will hopefully help inform more people on what we’re doing with this painting.
For now, I will continue to make progress under the watch of the public, and from the cabinet of stuffed birds sitting just behind the painting!
By Jon Old, Conservation Manager