Meet Watts Gallery - Artists' Village's First de Laszlo Conservation Fellow

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Posted 10th May 2016

In March 2016, I had the huge privilege of being appointed the first de Laszlo Conservation Fellow here at Watts Gallery.

With nearly ten years post-qualification conservation experience, working in both the public and private sectors in galleries, museums and in private practice, being offered the de Laszlo Fellowship is a hugely exciting and challenging opportunity as I enter the next phase of my professional life.

My route into Conservation was initially made during my undergraduate degree in History of Art at the University of Warwick. During the final year of my BA in 2002, I had the privilege of spending four months studying Northern Italian Renaissance Art and Architecture in Venice, as part of a core course offered through the History of Art faculty. During this time, I had an extraordinary opportunity to visit and climb the scaffolding of Giotto's monumental 'Arena Chapel' in Padua. This stunningly beautiful chapel was undergoing a full conservation and restoration program at the time, and after just a few minutes in the company of the highly skilled and passionate conservators treating the frescos there, I was hooked. From that day, I knew that I wanted to become a paintings conservator and started my journey to make it a reality.

On completing my first degree at Warwick, I enrolled on a Masters degree in History of Art and the Material Science of Paintings at University College London. It was at this time that I greatly expanded my knowledge of painting materials and artistic practice, focusing the majority of my time of the materials and methods of nineteenth and early twentieth British and French painters.

Between lectures and in University holidays, I sought out every opportunity possible to learn more about painting conservation and conservation science, and I was very fortunate to have been offered some practical work experience in the Conservation Department of the Guildhall Art Gallery.

Confident that I was working hard to develop my previously lacking knowledge of organic and inorganic chemistry, alongside gaining some practical experience, I felt like I was getting closer to my goal. In the spring of 2003 I therefore applied for and was accepted onto one of the five places offered to study the Conservation of Easel Paintings at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London.

During my three years at the Courtauld Institute, I worked on a huge variety of works, with a full range of complex technical issues. The paintings that I treated at this time ranged from a Northern Italian Altarpiece dating from 1340 to a large scale Barnes-Graham landscape of St Ives dating from 1951 and much in between.

During my three years at the Courtauld, I developed a passion for research and the technical examination of paintings, and in 2006 I completed a four-month research project entitled 'The Painting Materials and Techniques of Sir William Orpen R.A. (1878-1931)'. During the course of this research, eight paintings dating from the period of 1901-1928, from both a private London collection and Tate, were examined and analysed. The results of the technical analysis undertaken were examined alongside a wide variety of documentary, anecdotal and primary source materials, including brushes, a palette and the artist's paint box. This research has since been regularly referenced in lectures, publications and technical reports by paint analysts, members of the conservation team at Tate and students.

The conservation training was intense, yet hugely rewarding and in the summer of 2006, I graduated as a fully qualified paintings conservator.

Sally Marriott MA, PG Dip (Cons)

De Laszlo Conservation Fellow, Watts Gallery - Artists' Village

Director, Surrey Conservation of Paintings Ltd

See Sally's work in The David Pike Conservation Studio during our Conservation Open Studio sessions every Thursday at 11.30am & 1pm.