Behind the Layers: Authenticating the Stories of Paintings

Opens 09-03-2023,  closes 30-04-2023

Salon Gallery

Image of gloved hand cleaning a colonial-era portrait of a man

This exhibition showcases recent treatments undertaken by the TMAG conservation department, focusing on 19th century oil paintings and their frames. It also explores some of the mysteries uncovered about the artists and their subjects. Here we have examples of portraits that have been attributed to different artists. How do we know who painted them? Many colonial portraits were not signed, so we need to look for other clues.

One way to answer these questions is to examine the materials and techniques of the artist. Research is showcased in this exhibition that looks behind the layers of paint using infrared and ultraviolet photography to discover the artist’s techniques. Old restorations have been uncovered, such as details to added clothes. In one portrait, the identity of the sitter has been uncovered.

Clues such as the fabric in a dress, the pigment used, or a framer’s label can help to date the painting. The frames are also important as they protect the paintings and bring them to life. Some showcase the unique timbers of Tasmania, while others are richly gilded, and they also hold valuable clues to discovering more about the paintings.

Thank you to the Keith Clarke Foundation for support of conservation at TMAG and making this exhibition possible.

Image and video credit: Creative Grit