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Subject: Questionnaire on cleaning unvarnished modern paintings

Questionnaire on cleaning unvarnished modern paintings

From: Susan Braovac <susan.braovac>
Date: Tuesday, June 13, 2006
I am posting a request for Jeremy Donald Hutchings who is not on the

    Paintings conservators with experience of cleaning unvarnished
    are invited to participate in research to establish if an
    acceptable frequency of cleaning for unvarnished modern
    paintings can be determined. The research is being undertaken by
    Jeremy Hutchings, a British conservator living in Norway,
    employed as Associate Professor in objects conservation at the
    University of Oslo.

    A simple questionnaire has been designed to organise your
    experience of cleaning unvarnished paintings into a useful form.
    It asks you to give your opinion on the comparative risks
    involved in the process of cleaning unvarnished modern paintings
    and the acceptable frequency with which cleaning should take
    place for paintings that are on permanent or regular display.
    Its purpose is to reach a consensus on the quality of
    environment that should be maintained for an unglazed,
    unvarnished modern painting not on the level of soiling that is
    considered acceptable. As the frequency with which unvarnished
    modern paintings should be cleaned is a relative judgement, you
    are asked to give your immediate opinion rather than carry out a
    detailed survey of the work that you have carried out in the

    The survey is part of a larger investigation into how best to
    conserve the 11 large canvas paintings by Edvard Munch, in the
    Aula (auditorium), of Oslo University, which were painted
    between 1909 and 1916. The paintings are part of the original
    scheme of the room and are too large to be glazed or moved. In
    the past they have been cleaned approximately once every 12
    years, an interval that is clearly excessive. The aim of this
    project is to determine a sustainable course of action to ensure
    that these vulnerable paintings are preserved for the
    foreseeable future.

    At present there is little comparative information, other than
    personal experience, to assist a conservator in reaching a
    decision about an acceptable period between cleaning treatments
    for fragile unvarnished paintings. Without such information it
    is hard to argue for the costly improvements that must be made
    to the building in order to establish a controlled environment
    that will serve to slow the rate of soiling to an acceptable
    level. Currently the only guidance regarding acceptable
    frequency for cleaning that is available is offered by the
    English National Trust.

    These guidelines are for pre 20th century paintings which are
    assumed to have a fairly uniform paint surface, protected with a
    varnish layer. Based on cost benefit analysis, these guidelines
    suggest an interval of 25 years for light surface cleaning and
    100 years for more major treatment. However, due to the
    vulnerability of unvarnished paintings--many with exposed canvas
    supports, bare areas of ground and paint layers of variable
    composition--these intervals may not be applicable.

    This questionnaire can be downloaded from

    It should take you less than 15 minutes to complete. Please
    return it by e-mail to j.d.hutchings [at] iakh__uio__no by August 1,

    Feel free to forward this information and the questionnaire to
    colleagues who you think may find it of interest. Should you
    have any additional questions or comments please contact

        Jeremy Donald Hutchings
        +47 22859312
        Fax: +47 22859524
        j.d.hutchings [at] iakh__uio__no

Susan Braovac

                  Conservation DistList Instance 19:60
                  Distributed: Thursday, June 15, 2006
                       Message Id: cdl-19-60-023
Received on Tuesday, 13 June, 2006

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