Art Restoration Project - Melbourne H. Hardwick

Melbourne H. Hardwick

Born: 1857 - Digby, Nova Scotia Canada

Died: 1916 - Waverly, Massachusetts

Known for: Marine, landscape, figure

Figures On The Beach with Horse Drawn Cart

It's a beautiful piece of what looks like a beginning of a journey where the light pokes through.

Not much about him online besides his work, can't find much history on him. Google search as such >>

How did I end up restoring a 100+ year old painting in my new 120 year old house?

Well, first of all, my mum contacted me because a friend of hers had a 100+ year old painting that had been badly damaged, and she wanted to know if I could repair it. To me, it looked as though someone had taken a sharp instrument and pounded the painting about 12 times?

It was not only a collector’s piece, but it had real importance because it was once owned by her loved one. She wanted to see it repaired, and hanging in her own home.

I was sure I could help restore this beautiful work of art…not perfectly but perhaps enough to be able to hang the piece. I said “yes” I would love the challenge. I was very up front with the owner, that I had NOT done a repair and watercolor like this--- as it was not my type of painting. She accepted that and said, “Well, it would look better than it does now!” She was okay with my lack of experience.

I picked up the painting, it was in bad shape. Punctures wounds all over, it had been attacked, not going into the back story. The wounds went through the paper, through the hard backing and into the frame backing.

I was nervous, which I don't get on any project even with big brand development projects. This one kept me up at night, in a good way. After watching a few Repair Shop episodes on Netflix and a few YouTube videos I was feeling good although I couldn't find any example of what I was looking at – I mean, where would I find it?

I did an initial search to study the way the artist paints, got a feel for his work and flow. Mostly in the sky and clouds, that is where the biggest damage was.

The piece was paper thin, not watercolor paper thick. It was glued to a 100 year old piece of thick, particle board. The paper was so delicate it was tearing with the slightest movement.

I ordered some materials once I understood how bad it was…that I couldn't take the paper off, new paper backing the original was my first thought. This would have made the project much easier. I removed all the pushed/punctured pieces of paper and filled the holes with moldable glue that dries hard.

I'm scared shitless through all this.

It worked great, brought everything level and now I can start painting and mixing the colors. This ended up being the most difficult part. I mixed colors; got matches for all the areas I had to fill in. Applied that first color, very nervous and yet excited too, perfect match and same level of water to achieve a slight bleed that Melbourne H. Hardwick left on the paper. Stopped, I got this; I'll be done in a couple days. I let it dry for 12hrs, wanted to make sure it still looked good. It didn't. It was brighter, shinier compared to the old paint.

I came to realize that 100 years affects watercolor, and the paper it's on. The colors I matched looked different when dry. Since the piece is so old, and not protected or fixed in any way, my watercolor was moving with Hardwick’s paint strokes. It was a very, very, surreal moment for me. I started thinking about the artist making his stroke marks and there I am moving that very same paint around. It actually gave me the chills.

I had to paint over large areas of the painting. I needed to age everything that I added to make it look like the faded colors, and yet keep as much original unmarked paint as possible. This turned into adding color and similar marks to the original work. Sometimes, I had to go over areas twice a day to make it consistent with the age of the painting; and do it slowly and methodically.

I made touches with Q-tips, my fingers and dozens of re-touching brushes every day for about a month. I realized, to make it look aged, I needed to put the time and effort in that part of the project as much as getting the colors right, then age them.

For some of the painting, I used a strong concentrate of coffee, left out for a couple days then watered down to help get the aged appearance.

It's not perfect, but it’s the best I could do—and, I’m pretty proud of it. I delivered the painting to the client yesterday; she was very happy. Delivering it to her was one of the most nervous moments in my career because I understood the deep meaning for her; that responsibility weighed on me in the best possible way. I didn't even paint (my own work) in my studio because I was so concerned that I might splash or spill on it.

I am very thankful for the opportunity and very relieved that I did an adequate job fixing and matching Melbourne H. Hardwick style to my limited ability. Now this painting can be hung, and enjoyed with a new chapter in its story.

I hope to repair others, the stress was great.

#artrestoration #MelbourneHHardwick #art #arthistory #vintage #vintageart #artproject

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