Remarkable restoration of city’s maritime paintings

Included in the conservation is a large oil painting of the Wilson Line ship SS Consuelo.

Included in the conservation is a large oil painting of the Wilson Line ship SS Consuelo. This photo shows the remarkable transformation the painting has undergone during restoration.

A number of historic maritime paintings from the Hull Maritime Museum’s collection that were conserved early last year have now returned to the city.

The conservation work has been undertaken thanks to the Hull: Yorkshire Maritime City project, funded by Hull City Council and the National Heritage Lottery Fund.

Last year, as part of the project round one development work, 35 paintings were identified and prioritised as those most in need of conservation. Work to treat the paintings was carried out early last year. Now, the final 23 paintings have returned to the Maritime Museum and will, along with the other collections, be placed into storage until it reopens in late 2023.

The delicate work has been undertaken by conservation and restoration conservators Critchlow and Kukkonen Ltd based in Sheffield, who specialise in the conservation and restoration of easel paintings from all periods.

The paintings were selected from a collection of 400 prints, canvases and paintings. Treatment included the removal of old varnish, surface cleaning, varnish removal, retouching, consolidation of flaking paint and repairs to canvas tears.

Included in the conservation is a large oil painting of the Wilson Line ship SS Consuelo which was the ship which first carried Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel on board to the USA in 1910 as part of Fred Karno’s then famous music hall troupe.

Previously hung in the Wilson Line offices in Hull, the Consuelo was later sold to the Cairn Line of Steamships in Newcastle in 1908 and renamed the Cairnrona. Before conservation the painting was in very poor condition, including significant damage in the lower left corner. Due to the level of damage it had not been displayed at the museum, but now thanks to the transformation it will be given pride of place in the new exhibitions planned for the refurbished Maritime Museum.  The treatment included the removal of surface dirt, varnish removal, repair of eight different tears and holes, moisture treatment, filling and retouching, varnishing and the application of a protective facing as well as replacing the frame with a newly conserved frame with backboard.

Councillor Daren Hale, Portfolio Holder for Economic Investment, Regeneration, Planning, Land and Property, said: “The conservation work has been undertaken thanks to the Hull: Yorkshire Maritime City project. It is critical that the paintings in our care receive this TLC and ensure they are in the best possible condition not just for the present but for the future too. It is now possible for us to display the paintings and tell the stories and for some for the very first time.”

Eeva Kukkonen, from Critchlow & Kukkonen Ltd, said: “It has been a great experience to be part of the Hull: Yorkshire Maritime City project. We have found it exciting to be able to give many of the paintings a new lease of life.  Removing decades of surface dirt, discoloured varnish layers and old restorations, as well as repairing tears and retouching old paint losses has helped to return these paintings to the vibrant scenes they once were.”

For more information on the conservation of objects within the museum’s collection and the wider project, visit www.maritimeHull.co.uk

[Anna Marshall – Hull CC]

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