Conserving Canvas is an international grant initiative begun in 2018 that aims to ensure that critical conservation skills needed to care for paintings on canvas do not disappear. Below is a list of grants awarded:

Conservator working on The Blue Boy
 

Corporation of the Fine Arts Museums
François Boucher's Vertumnus and Pomona (1757) is one of the largest paintings in the European collection of the Legion of Honor, which together with the de Young Museum makes up the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. For many years, the painting served as the focal point of a large gallery devoted to 18th-century French and Italian art; however, upon the gallery's reinstallation in 2013, the painting was removed from display. The work had become increasingly compromised due to canvas distortions, a failing lining, yellowed surface varnish, and discolored retouching. A Getty grant-funded conservation treatment led by senior conservators is addressing these issues and at the same time training a group of visiting museum conservators in the development of hands-on skills for canvas repair. A related technical study is addressing long-standing questions about the painting's early history and provenance.
Grant awarded: $129,000 (2018)


The Blue Boy at the Huntington Library
 
Henry E. Huntington Library & Art Gallery
Thomas Gainsborough's The Blue Boy is among the most famous paintings in the Huntington's collection, having been on display for nearly 100 years without interruption. Despite the best of care, conservation treatment is now necessary to address lifting and flaking paint, the separation of the canvas from its support lining, and the accrual of layers of varnish on the painting's surface. A Getty grant is allowing the Huntington to bring together highly respected conservation experts of 18th-century British canvas paintings in order to determine a treatment plan for re-lining the painting—a process that involves adding a new secondary canvas support to the original material. A cohort of conservators is gaining valuable experience by participating in the decision-making process and structural intervention of this highly significant and celebrated canvas painting. During the year-long conservation treatment, The Blue Boy is remaining mostly on public view in order to educate audiences about the field of preservation.
Grant awarded: $150,000 (2018)




 
Statens Historiska Museer
Sweden's National Historical Museums is organizing a two-week collections-based seminar to be held in 2019 for sixteen participants, conservators, and curators in pairs to study canvas paintings at Skokloster Castle in Sweden. The seminar provides a hands-on introduction to the mechanical behavior of paintings on cloth supports, the deterioration of materials such as canvas and adhesives, and the aesthetic impact of different canvas conservation treatment methods. A workshop on tear mending is offering conservators the chance to learn a newer, less invasive repair technique, while case studies involving three 17th-century paintings from the collection—including Jacob Jordaens's The Return of the Holy Family from Egypt—are promoting problem-solving skills. The Skokloster collection is especially well-suited for training exercises given its lack of climate control over the centuries; trainees can witness firsthand the effects of uncontrolled climate conditions on the collection's lined and unlined paintings and discuss possible conservation treatments.
Grant awarded: 1,130,000 kr (2018)


 
Stichting Restauratie Atelier Limburg
A Getty grant to Stichting Restauratie Atelier Limburg (SRAL) is supporting an advanced conservation workshop on mist lining, a minimally invasive technique developed to stabilize paintings on canvas. Mist lining was developed in the 1980s and involves the application of minimal amounts of adhesive, heat, and pressure to join a painting's back to a new canvas. Since mist lining is still a relatively new technique and not yet part of many conservators' 'toolkits', the advanced workshop is timely for the field. Spread over six-months, the workshop is divided into two sessions. During the first workshop, trainees are gathering to learn the basics of mist lining, particularly the properties and preparation of the adhesives and solvents. The meeting includes lectures, case studies, and demonstrations, and provides trainees with ample time to practice mist lining on pre-fabricated mock-ups. During the second session, trainees are returning to SRAL in smaller groups to apply the mist lining method to a painting either from their home institution or provided by SRAL. At the conclusion of the workshop, SRAL is assembling all teaching materials into a handbook on the mist lining method to share with participants and the broader field.
Grant awarded: €234,000 (2018)


 
The National Gallery
With Getty support, the National Gallery, London is undertaking a major conservation treatment of one of the most prominent canvas paintings in its collection, Anthony van Dyck's Equestrian Portrait of Charles I (1637-8). Since its acquisition in 1885, the monumental work—which depicts the king as the divinely chosen ruler of Great Britain—has rarely been off view. While the painting is in relatively good condition, the original canvas is too weak to hold the painting up by itself. Old tears are lifting at the edges, and a network of surface cracks (which indicate the painting has been rolled in the past) are disrupting the image. Additionally, the picture surface is somewhat rippled in certain areas due to earlier treatments. Led by National Gallery conservators, a complex conservation intervention is focused on the removal and replacement of the current lining. Visiting mid-career museum conservators are receiving training in the techniques and complex logistics of re-lining a large and fragile painting, an undertaking in which the National Gallery's conservation department has particular expertise. A culminating workshop will share the project results with a larger group of 20-30 specialists in the field.
Grant awarded: £70,800 (2018)


 
University of Glasgow
A Getty grant is bringing pairs of conservators-curators to the College of Arts and The Hunterian at the University of Glasgow for training workshops related to the conservation of five canvas paintings from the Hunterian and the National Galleries of Scotland, including Sir Joshua Reynolds's Lady Maynard (c.1759-60). The workshops, which focus on the interdisciplinary involvement of both curators and conservators, are conceived around the principle that canvas conservation is part of a holistic process involving condition, aesthetics, interpretation, and presentation. Participants are researching the evolution of lining materials and techniques, and reviewing how past structural treatments affect a painting's appearance. They will also examine the visual presentation of paintings with different approaches to treatments, referencing collections at The Hunterian, National Galleries of Scotland, Glasgow Museums, and Yale University. Afterwards, participants are completing individual month-long residencies in Scotland to treat the five selected paintings.
Grant awarded: £115,000 (2018)


 
Yale University
The Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage at Yale University is organizing an international symposium on the conservation of canvas paintings to be held at Yale in October 2019. This is the first major international gathering on the subject since 1974 and is allowing specialists to look back at over 45 years of practice and take stock of the current state of the field. The symposium is addressing historical approaches to the structural treatment of canvas paintings; contemporary methods, materials, and research; and the challenges facing the structural conservation of modern and contemporary works. With today's professionals embracing minimal-intervention techniques and maintaining differing opinions on the efficacy of more invasive approaches, the symposium is providing a necessary forum for specialists to reevaluate historical conservation protocols and consider how past and current treatment approaches set the course for the long-term stability of paintings on canvas, whether by old masters or modern artists.
Grant awarded: $212,000 (2018)

Image Header: In The Huntington's conservation lab, senior paintings conservator Christina O'Connell positions an Hi-R NEO 900 Haag-Streit microscope to study The Blue Boy. On the monitor, a magnified view of the lace on his collar is displayed. The microscope, designed for ophthalmology and hand surgery, is on loan from Haag-Streit USA for Project Blue Boy. (The photo was taken in Fall 2017 during a three-month conservation study.) The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.