Panel paintings – understanding, deterioration, mechanisms and conservation practices

Jørgen Wadum

In line with the objectives of the Panel Paintings Initiative (a collaborative project of the Getty Conservation Institute, the J. Paul Getty Museum and the Getty Foundation), an upcoming Summer Institute aims to ensure that critical knowledge about the historical production of panel paintings as well as methods and recent theories and the best practice in the structural conservation of panel paintings will be transferred from current experts to a new generation of conservators and curators. The course instructors will be experienced panel painting conservators, museum curators, wood specialists and conservation scientists from renowned museums and institutes in the USA and Europe. We believe the best way to foster improvement of the structural conservation of panel paintings is to exchange current aesthetic notions and material knowledge of art works, and to fuse the latest developments in modern sciences with shared professional experiences and observations in treatment options. A two-week intensive Summer Institute could offer a new professional network for conservators, curators and wood scientists from Western, Central European and Russian institutions holding panel paintings; a network that could prove essential for keeping the field of panel painting conservation alive and well for the future.

Points of discussion are:
• Is there a divergence between Northern and Southern European treatment approaches, and if so what is the rationale behind these differences?
• Is the structural treatment of a panel painting primarily the responsibility of a panel conservator/wood specialist?
• The presentation of panel paintings often requires adaptations to the frame (microclimate enclosure, extended rebate, glass), which in turn influences the overall aesthetics of the work. What is most important when making such a decision?

About Jørgen Wadum

Jørgen Wadum is keeper of conservation at the National Gallery of Denmark, Copenhagen. He trained as a flower painter, an art historian and as a paintings conservator. Since the 1980s he has specialized in the painting techniques of 16th and 17th-century Dutch and Flemish artists. He has published and lectured extensively internationally on a multitude of subjects related to this and other issues of importance for the understanding and preservation of our cultural heritage. Wadum holds positions in several international organizations and committees. He is the co-chair of the Panel Paintings Advisory Group, Getty Conservation Institute, Los Angeles, and a member of the Jan Van Eyck Advisory Board, Ghent.