News Story

With nearly fifteen years post-qualification conservation experience, working in both the public and private sectors in galleries, museums and in private practice, Dr Sally Marriott joined Watts Gallery as our De Laszlo Paintings Conservator in 2016.

Sally holds a paintbrush in her hands and works on an oil painting

De Laszlo Paintings Conservator, Dr Sally Marriott

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 Master's 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. I also 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)'. This research went on to underpin William Orpen: Method & Mastery, an exhibition at Watts Gallery from 19 November 2019 to 23 February 2020, which provided new insights into Orpen's evolving and innovative artistic process.

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

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. At this time I also began working as an Assistant to a number of highly respected and extraordinarily talented conservators working in private practice. It was during the many hours working at an easel that I honed my practical skills, knowledge and 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.

On leaving the National Portrait Gallery in 2013, I founded Surrey Conservation of Paintings Ltd. 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. Within months of opening I was delighted to have been asked to act as a Consultant for Watts Gallery 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.

It has been a great privilege to have worked on so many of Watts's paintings in recent years. Now as a permanent member of Gallery staff, I - as de Laszlo Paintings Conservator - remain fascinated by the complex material nature of G F Watts's work and how they differ so extensively from one another throughout his career.