Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Treat for Art Lovers as Turner Gets a Brush-Up

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Treat for Art Lovers as Turner Gets a Brush-Up

Article excerpt

Byline: Barbara Hodgson Reporter barbara.hodgson@trinitymirror.com

HAVING your every move at work scrutinised by members of the public would not bear thinking about for most of us, but that's exactly what Jon Old has been getting used to in recent weeks.

Not only is the conservation manager at The Bowes Museum tasked with restoring a valuable Turner oil painting, but he's been carrying out the painstaking work in full public view. When the 1810 painting, part of the County Durham treasure house's impressive collection, was found in need of restoration, it was decided visitors might like to watch it happen so Jon set up his work station in a glass gallery where for the past few weeks he's been making slow but steady progress in carefully cleaning away years of yellowed varnish.

"I've done pieces in the public eye before but it became most apparent this generated far more interest," said Jon who has been working at the museum for the past seven years.

"Some restorations take just a couple of days; some a year - it all depends on a painting's size and complexities. But even if you've done lots, it's always nerve-wracking when you start."

The oil by Joseph Mallord William Turner, one of Britain's leading artists, was acquired by Bowes earlier this year via Arts Council England's Acceptance in Lieu scheme which allows those with an inheritance tax bill to pay it by transferring important cultural or historic objects to the nation.

Called Lowther Castle - Evening, it captures a location just 40 miles or so away from the museum and was painted by Turner in 1851 as one of a commissioned contrasting pair. The other, with the wordier title of 'Lowther Castle, Westmorland seen from a distance by day in 1810 by JMW Turner' remains in private ownership.

The castle, which has been undergoing its own restoration since 2011 in a bid to reverse some 70 years of deterioration, was visited by the artist in 1809 while it was still in the process of being built.

Then he was gathering sketches of architectural details and drawings of the surrounding landscape for his paintings. When they were finally exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1810, the castle's construction was still not complete. …

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