A Closer Look by David Bomford

David Bomford, A Closer Look Conservation of Paintings (London: National Gallery Company, 2009)

This book is intended as an introduction into the complex discipline of restoration and conservation. David Bomford’s precise and comforting tone of writing delivers a rounded view of the most delicate of issues, from: in-painting, cleaning, restoring, conserving, and even abstaining from any course of restorative action. It is evident that each decision for action is always well considered and those performing these intense jobs often dedicate years of patient and steady handiwork. Any attempt at conservation, cleaning, or restoration has to contend not only with the ravages of time, e.g. craquelure, but likely well intentioned attempts at conservation from previous centuries, e.g. those by Giuseppe Molteni, favourite restorer of Sir Charles Eastlake. Bomford works through several different scenarios as he explains the difficult decisions faced by the expert team at the National Gallery, which in turn illuminates those faced by all galleries as each consider how best to preserve their collections for us all.

If you are not familiar with conservation terms, this book will make them clear and comprehensive. However, if you are more of a specialist, this is a wonderful reminder of the changing face of art and the many dilemmas art historians and art conservators have to regularly make. We should always ask what is original and what is important, for these are not always the same thing.

Well worth reading.