At times, the museum inherits a work of art that isn’t in stable condition for exhibit. This could not have been more apparent when the museum acquired an untitled landscape oil painting, by Swiss painter Franz Knebel Jr. (1809-1877). The work was in a critical state: the frame was structurally unsound, the canvas was falling from the stretcher, the paint had become extremely dried & cracked resulting in some paint loss, the canvas had suffered from multiple tears, etc… Perhaps what was most disheartening was that at some point in its history, in attempt to care for the painting, it had been covered with varnish with the intention of “perserving” its integrity. Overtime, this extra layer of varnish darkened and discolored making it difficult for the viewer to identify parts of the composition. Even though the painting was but of a shadow of its former glory, it was still visible that this was a great example of a 19th century European oil landscape.
In February of 2011, the Trustees of the Florence Museum took the painting to ReNewell Inc: Fine Art Conservation in Columbia SC. ReNewell Inc. specializes in the treatment and preservation of 18th and 19th century oil paintings and works of art on paper. ReNewell teaches that conservation is the preventative maintenance of protecting art through proper storage and a stable environment, restoration is the treatment needed to repair art after the damage has already occurred. The museum’s painting was in dire need of the latter.
The landscape remained with the conservationists at ReNewell for several months during which the painting’s canvas was removed from its stretcher, and its tears and previous patchworks were treated. Then the varnished surface and overpaint were meticulously removed from the painting’s surface. Following cleaning the surface, the conservationists relined the original canvas to strengthen its overall structural integrity, after which the canvas was fitted onto a newly built stretcher. Now near completion, the conservationist inpainted several small areas of missing paint that were lost due to desiccation and tearing, and finally the painting was placed back in its original frame, which had undergone restoration as well.
The curatorial staff was thrilled with the results of the painting’s transformation. When the painting was returned to the museum, it was placed in climate controlled storage. The Board of Trustees would like to thank the staff of ReNewell Inc. in Columbia SC for their dedication to conservation excellence. The Board of Trustees would also like to thank our family of donors and contributing members & visitors. Restoring this painting would not have been possible without your contributions.