Conservation on Display


Watercolour painting on paper, attributed to James Wilson Carmichael (1800 – 1868)
Carmichael was born in Newcastle. He completed his apprenticeship as a ship’s carpenter, but devoted much of his free time to art and was eventually able to make a living as a painter. He is well known as a marine artist.
Residues of paper and animal glue at the edges of the painting show that it was once attached to a window mount and backing board. The brown line of discolouration just inside the edge is a result of contact with acidic mount board. Contact with poor quality materials, and unsuitable environmental conditions have caused the paper to become discoloured and brittle. It has lost flexibility, resulting in cracking and tearing at the left side.
Dark brown spots in the image are known as ‘fox marks’ and can occur when small, impurities in the paper become degraded.
Conservation Treatment
The painting has been treated to reduce discolouration and remove acidity from the paper. Cracked and torn areas have been repaired at the back using good quality materials that can be easily removed if necessary. Small areas of loss along the tear have been filled and carefully retouched so that they no longer distract the eye from the image.
For display, the painting has been hinged into a window mount. The mount is made from high quality, acid free materials and contains an alkaline buffer to protect the painting from future acid attack. The bevelled window also serves to prevent contact with the glass if the painting is framed.

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