Our Approach

Large or small, every work of art is different. It is the artwork itself, its unique combination of materials, history, and present condition that guides our choice in all materials and methods involved in conservation. Our goal is to clean and preserve what the artist originally created and intended.

Our approach to conservation is to introduce as little foreign material to the artwork as possible, thereby respecting and preserving the originality, the chemical make-up, and the aesthetic qualities of the work. We work with the philosophy that “less is more”.

This is the reason we repair and reuse original stretchers whenever possible. It is also the reason that “lining” is done only under extreme necessity. And of course, it means that all of the products that we use are of the highest quality available, are compatible, and completely reversible.

Much of Parma’s work is done “on-site” on murals in post offices, schools, churches, libraries, and private residences. We offer complete on-location services, including scaffolding, in order to provide the same high quality, museum-standard conservation that we provide in the laboratory.

At Parma, we take great pride in our work. We believe that our commitment to conservation is a great asset to your artwork.

Technique and Technology

Raking Light

Raking light is one of the tools we use to discern irregularities in the plane of the textile support and paint layers. In this example, there is a dramatic difference between perpendicular lighting, which makes the painting appear to be in good condition, and raking light, which reveals the painting’s pronounced craquelure, tented paint and precarious condition.

Cleaning

Cleaning painted surfaces is a very delicate undertaking. Every painting is uniquely different, owing to the endless variation and complexity in artists’ materials and methods. The challenge is in identifying and removing everything unoriginal, including: discolored resins and varnishes, previous restoration paints, surface accretions, grime and other soiling materials that obscure the intended beauty and legibility of the artwork. It is the artwork’s unique makeup that must be fully understood in order for it to be safely and effectively treated.

Whenever possible, our cleaning solutions are administered in the form of gels. The use of a gel considerably reduces the penetration of the cleaning agent into the layers of a painting. Gels can also be applied with precision and confined to specific areas on the surface, which makes them easier to control than liquid solutions. More importantly, the use of gels enables us to utilize solvents that are much less polar and less volatile when removing soiling materials or oxidized resin coatings. This considerably reduces the risk to the paint layer.

Ultra Violet

Long wave U.V. lights can be useful for identifying non-contemporaneous (unoriginal) coatings, additions, and/or previous restorations. In the sample shown, ultraviolet light is revealing inpainting on this 16th century Italian painting.

Inpainting

Inpainting is a term that describes our technique for precisely compensating paint losses. Our inpainting is very technical and controlled, limited only to the area of actual loss. Using various and specific inpainting technique tailored to the age, make up, and condition of each artwork enables us to best reflect the intent of the artist. Example: minimal inpainting to a 15th century panel painting.

Microscopy

Parma’s work in cleaning, filling and inpainting is often carried out with the assistance of binocular magnification, so details can be treated with microscopic precision.

Your Experienced Conservation Team

Parma’s staff has decades of experience working on paintings, frescoes, murals, and works of art on paper. Whether it be a single painting or a yearlong mural project, Parma draws on the knowledge, talents, and experience of each member of its staff, working together as a team.

Elizabeth Kendall

Director, Chief Conservator

  • 38 years in conservation, including 16 years in Italy
  • Founded Laboratory in 1999
  • Paintings, Murals, Frescoes
  • AIC Professional Associate

Peter Schoenmann

Co-Director, Sr. Painting Conservator

  • 23 years in conservation
  • Co-Founded laboratory in 1999
  • Paintings, Murals, Frescoes

Ewa Devereux

Sr. Conservator

  • 19 years in conservation
  • Paintings, Murals, Reverse Glass Artwork
  • AIC Professional Associate

John Salhus

Sr. Conservator

  • 17 years in conservation
  • Paintings, Murals, Objects, Frames

Parma_Microscopy
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Have a piece of art or collection in need of attention?  We’d love to help.