Meet Watts Gallery - Artists' Village's First de Laszlo Conservation Fellow (Part 2)
On receipt of my conservation qualification, I gained a place as an intern in the Painting Conservation Department of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Here, I was responsible for the preparation of paintings for loans out and the general care of the extensive and varied painting collection, and I undertook a complex cleaning and restoration project on a16th century German portrait of an unknown woman.
At this time I also began working as an Assistant to a number of highly respected and extraordinarily talented conservators working in private practice. These were Sophia Plender MBE, Nicole Ryder and Zahira Veliz-Bomford. It was during the many hours working at an easel with these talented professionals that I honed my practical skills, knowledge and detailed eye for colour: skills which I now utilise daily.
Alongside my work in private practice, in March 2007 I was offered the position of Assistant Research Conservator on the Making Art in Tudor Britain project at the National Portrait Gallery. During the course of what turned out to be a six-year research project, over 200 Tudor and Jacobean panel and canvas paintings were examined, with the aim of gaining extensive knowledge and understanding of the painting materials and techniques adopted during this period.
As Research Conservator, my role was to undertake technical analysis on each of the works, using the techniques of infra-red reflectography, x-radiography, ultraviolet light examination and stereomicroscopy, and interpret those results alongside those of external dedrochronologist Ian Tyers and paint analyst Libby Sheldon. Limited medium analysis was also undertaken on selected works.
Between 2009 and 2011, I took on the role of Features Editor of the well-respected conservation journal, The Picture Restorer, in which I published regularly on the subject of health and safety in conservation and on the technical examination of paintings.
On leaving the National Portrait Gallery in 2013, I founded Surrey Conservation of Paintings Ltd. This is a small-scale painting conservation practice based in the heart of the Surrey Hills. The focus of the business is to provide museum-quality conservation and restoration services, analytical research and advice to institutions and private individuals, primarily in the South of England. Over the past three years I have had the privilege of working closely with the Watts Gallery team in carrying out conservation and restoration treatments for the newly opened Watts Studios, as well as on works being prepared for temporary exhibitions and loans.
My association with Watts Gallery - Artists' Village has also been that of an advisor on conservation and displays, and during this time I have regularly visited the Gallery to carry out minor in situ treatments to damaged paintings on permanent display.
My interest in the materials and techniques of G F Watts began during my Masters degree at UCL in 2002/3. At this time, I chose to write my MA thesis on the painting materials and techniques of Watts and Leighton, primarily focusing on documentary and archival sources, the examination of photographs, their surviving painting materials and the technical research previously undertaken by paintings conservator Carol Willoughby. Although my career has taken me towards a specialism in the much earlier Tudor and early-Jacobean period of English painting, my interest in Watts and his contemporaries has always remained.
It is a great privilege to have worked on Watts's paintings in recent years, and I remain fascinated by the complex material nature of his works and how they can differ so extensively from one another throughout his career.
Being offered the position of de Laszlo Conservation Fellow at the Artists' Village is a great privilege. I look forward to the remaining months of my Fellowship with huge enthusiasm and excitement, and particularly look forward to engaging and educating visitors with the subjects of conservation, painting materials and artists technique.
Sally Marriott MA, PG Dip (Cons)
De Laszlo Conservation Fellow, Watts Gallery - Artists' Village
Director, Surrey Conservation of Paintings Ltd
Read Part 1 of Sally's Introduction.
See Sally's work in The David Pike Conservation Studio during our Conservation Open Studio sessions every Thursday at 11.30am & 1pm.