The Tour: Lady Dalrymple

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Posted 4th February 2022

In the previous blog posts, we have learnt about the history of our Object in Focus Lady Dalrymple (c.1851 - 1853), the portrait and the sitter, Sophia Dalrymple, as well as an overview of the recent technical analysis of the painting and its conservation carried out. In this blog, our Collections Manager, Emma Coburn, ACR, will set into context the reason behind this in depth historical, technical and conservation research.

See the painting on display for yourself in the G F Watts Studio at Limnerslease between 1 - 7 February, before the artwork goes out on national and international loan.

It is not often the Collections and Exhibitions Team have the opportunity to look so closely at one specific painting and gather so much information about it. This has been made possible as the artwork was selected to be exhibited by the Royal Academy, London (RA) and the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC (NGA) in their forthcoming exhibitions which showcase how James McNeill Whistler’s revolutionary paintings featuring Joanna Hiffernan went on to influence later artists including G F Watts.

A request was made to the Collections and Exhibitions Team by both the RA and NGA for approval for the artwork to travel to each location and be displayed for the duration of each exhibition. Watts Gallery Trust approved this loan on the condition that the artwork was stable enough to travel and to go on display.

An initial assessment showed that the artwork required conservation treatment prior to being going on tour. This included cleaning the surface of the painting, treating any unstable areas or losses, varnishing, glazing, and re-framing. The conservation treatment stabilises the paint surface and reduces the risk of physical damage from handling, packing, travel and installation. Glazing ensures that the paint surface is protected from physical damage and surface dirt; it also provides a micro-climate in which the conditions remain stable. A full condition report with photographs has also been prepared and shall travel with the artwork to both locations so that any changes in condition can be checked, recorded, and photographed. A bespoke crate will be built for the artwork to travel in both to London via road and to Washington DC via air. A member of the Collections and Exhibitions Team, here at Watts Gallery, shall oversee the installation of the artwork when it goes on display.

Whilst the artwork is in the David Pike Conservation Studio here at Watts Gallery, with the financial support of the York Foundation for Conservation & Craftsmanship, we took the opportunity to do more scientific research into the techniques and materials of G F Watts. Our De Lazlo Paintings Conservator, has developed specialist knowledge of his approach and method as a painter.

The Watts Gallery is excited to share the artwork of G F Watts with national and international audiences when Lady Dalrymple features in forthcoming exhibitions Whistler’s Woman in White: Joanna Hiffernan at the Royal Academy (26 February – 22 May 2022), and in The Woman in White: Joanna Hiffernan and James McNeill Whistler at the National Gallery of Art Washington DC (3 July – 10 October 2022).

Visit our Object in Focus in the G F Watts Studio at Limnerslease: Artists’ Home from 1 to 8 February 2022 and remember to catch up on our other blogs.