Elaine Sheldon from our Collection Care Team writes:
Freelance paintings conservator Elizabeth Jowett has recently been working on a small number of our paintings at the John Rylands Library. Elizabeth has carried out preservation work to four paintings from the visual collection. This work has enabled the paintings to be hung in the library’s purpose built storage area.
Two of the paintings are portraits of important figures in the history of the John Rylands library, Earl Spencer and Walter Llewellyn Bullock.
The portrait of George John Spencer, 2nd Earl Spencer (1758-1834), is painted in oil on panel. It was painted by Jacob Thompson (1806-1879). In 1892 Mrs Rylands acquired Earl Spencer’s collection from the Althorp Library. This is one of our foundation collections and includes the Aldine Collection. Ryman fittings were attached to the painting to allow it to be hung in store. The fittings can also be used to hang the painting during exhibitions.
The portrait of Walter Llewellyn Bullock is oil on canvas. Walter Llewellyn Bullock (1890-1944), Serena Professor of Italian from 1935 to 1944, gifted the Victoria University of Manchester his collection of early printed books, many of which he brought into his classes when teaching undergraduate courses. Brass fittings have been attached to the frame of the portrait to ensure the canvas and the backboard are held securely in place. This was necessary in order for the painting to be hung safely.
The Grafton Portrait was also moved from the historic building to the storage area in the 2007 part of the Library. The Grafton Portrait dates from 1588; it is by an unknown artist and is painted in oil on an English oak panel. Panel paintings are susceptible to damage caused by fluctuations in temperature and relative humidity. In order to minimise the risk of damage to the panel during the move, the painting was removed from its frame, allowed to acclimatise to the conditions in the storage area, and then returned to its frame.
The final painting is a large abstract work by Jeff Nuttall. Nuttall (1933–2004) has been described as an artist, poet, jazz musician, social commentator, theatrical innovator and influential art teacher – he was a pivotal figure in the ’60s counter-culture in Britain. A considerable amount of dust and loose debris had accumulated on the back of the canvas. This was removed using a brush and vacuum and hanging fittings were attached to the frame.