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Hamilton Kerr Institute

Fitzwilliam Museum


It is expected that students taking an active part in the work of the studio will become familiar with all technical, scientific, aesthetic and art-historical aspects of the conservation and restoration of paintings.

In the first term, practical instruction is delivered through the supervised reconstruction of paintings in oil and tempera on canvas and on panel. During the Lent and Easter terms of the first year, students are taught practical conservation techniques in the studio. 

The formal teaching of theory is delivered in a series of seminars held throughout the first, second and third years.  

Practical Studio Skills

Over the course of the Diploma, paintings will be allocated with a view to introducing students to as many aspects of treatment as possible, including: 

  1. The treatment of easel paintings on various supports (eg. wood, canvas, metal or stone).
  2. Theoretical approaches to cleaning (eg. solvent action, ageing of materials).
  3. Theoretical approaches to structural treatment (eg. surface defects, lining).
  4. Theoretical approaches to panels (eg. splits, breaks and secondary supports). 

The projects will increase in complexity as the course progresses and students will be taught how to complete a project from beginning to end including writing reports and estimates, dealing with framing issues and being aware of time management. 

Analytical Skills

The technical examination of a painting in order to analyse its structure and condition will include instruction on:

  1. Visual examination and microscopy;
  2. Paint and wood sample techniques;
  3. Preparation and microscopic examination of cross sections;
  4. Instrumental analytical techniques.

Photographic Skills

There will be tuition in a range of photographic and imaging skills relating to the conservation of art. Topics will range from: the basic photography of paintings to recording their condition, to use of investigative imaging techniques in order to discover what lies beneath the paint layers. Students will learn how modern imaging can be used to learn more about the condition and history of the painting and how this may guide the potential treatment of paintings.  

Theoretical Study

There will be a series of theoretical seminars on a range of topics, including

  1. Art history, with an emphasis on European easel paintings.
  2. The history of painting materials and methods.
  3. Related science, (ie. light and colour; the properties of matter; and elementary inorganic and organic chemistry).
  4. The chemistry and technology of materials used in easel painting and conservation.
  5. Environmental causes of deterioration and their control.
  6. The design of studios and the care of equipment.
  7. General conservation management.