Stories from the conservator
In this section, conservators at SMK describe the conservation that they carry out as part of their day-to-day work, in small, short stories. The tasks are wide-ranging, and these stories cover the treatment and investigation of many artworks of very different character and condition.
You can read about the restoration of works on paper, parchment, canvas, wood, plaster, bronze, wax and plastic. The works of art are typically in the conservators' studios either in connection with SMK's own exhibtions and displays, or in preparation for loans to exhibitions in other museums. Conservation and research is sometimes also carried out as part of a larger research project. The conservators may also be called in if it is discovered that a work has damage and needs some care and attention. This damage may include degradation in the form of discoloration, loss of paint, cracks, surface dirt, holes, deformations, or parts of the artwork may have been lost due to damage.
The way in which a work of art is treated depends on the type of materials used to make it, as well as the degree and type of degradation or damage. The extent and choice of the restoration process is also largely determined by the work's original technique. There will, for example, be large differences in the treatment of an oil painting, a watercolour, a drawing in ink, a work in chalk, printed material and a photograph.
Discover stories from the conservator
A Monarch in Madrid
Back in the 1760s the preparations for Christian VII’s wedding included commissioning twelve portraits of various regents to decorate the so-called Potentates’ Room, which was the antechamber of the Great Hall at Christiansborg Palace. Seven of these twelve paintings still survive today, and all belong to SMK. The remaining five perished in the various palace fires that have plagued Copenhagen.
Read about the conservators work
As part of our preparations for the coming exhibition Rising From Darkness, our conservation workshop was visited by this poor thing. Not only was she lonely, she was also covered by a thick layer of algae, moss and lichen after having been left outside in all kinds of weather for years. It seemed as if she had been forgotten, and that no one had cared about her.
Read about the conservators work
The conservation of a fragile woodcut print
When performing conservation treatments on works of art on paper, the conservator often encounters difficult challenges.
Read about the conservation of a woodcut print made by the Danish painter and graphic artist Aksel Jørgensen
What's Happening? Preserving relics from the 60s and 70s
A number of works shown in the exhibition What's Happening have been conserved in preparation for being on display.
Read about the conservators work
A house of hoses and rubber bits
Conserving modern sculptures can in some cases be a rather complicated affair, requiring conservators to venture into unknown territory.
Read about the conservators challange with Torben Ebbesen’s sculpture Solitude.
Flattening bumpy paper – a restoration project in pictures
Whenever a work of art is due to be put on display it will first be checked by a conservator. The conservator will assess its condition, and decide on whether treatment is required before the work is presented to the public.
See the conservators work
From Roll to Wall – mounting a huge work on paper
Large-scale artworks can impress us simply by virtue of their sheer size, but at the same time they also pose a particular challenge to conservators.
Read about how the artwork Waves Over Graves by Ferdinand Ahm Krag came from roll to wall
Madonna attacked by fungus
Paper is a perfect medium for the growth of fungus, when high humidity is present. The fungus cannot be removed, as it has spread its hyphae net into both the porous paint layer and the paper.
Read about how conservators removed fungus from a Madonna painting
Mapping the surface with 3D scanning
At SMK we have tested 3D scanning for documenting artworks and their technique and condition. The technique was tested on two Tal R paintings from the SMK collection.
Read about 3D scanning on artworks by Tal R
The SMK frame collection
The SMK collection of frames consist of 7,300 frames and they can reveal more history and information than is immediately apparent. The collection covers a wide range of styles, dates, materials, and countries of origin.
Read more about the SMK frame collection
Revealing the Secrets of a Master Flower Painter
During preparation for the exhibition Flowers and World Views, which opens at SMK in spring 2013, two paintings by the German-Dutch flower and still-life painter Abraham Mignon (1640-1679) were examined down to the smallest detail.
Restoring Joakim Skovgaard's masterpiece
In Christianskirken in Klaksvík on the Faroe Islands, one of Joakim Skovsgaard's masterpieces, The Last Supper, hangs as an altarpiece. It is currently being restored.
The details around the [detail]
In the conservator's workshop we are always closely involved with the preparation works for exhibitions. For the [details] exhibition, we were not only rewarded with the fine details in works of art but also with their frames.
A woodcut in a bath - preparation of a 468-year-old hunting scene
As part of the preparation for SMK'swoodcut exhibition in 2012, many different prints were brought out of storage and into the conservation workshops.
A grid of red chalk - Matisse's use of grids as an aid
In 2009, Henri Matisse's work Le Luxe II was restored at SMK. In this context, a number of technical studies were carried out in order to gain a greater understanding of the painting's creation and of Matisse's painting technique.
A rediscovered masterpiece
This small panel painting of the Madonna and Child had been tucked away in storage for decades because of yellowed varnish, discolored retouchings and several layers of surface dirt.
Matisse - the frame in focus
In preparation for the new presentation of the museum's French collection, one of the museum's masterpieces by Henri Matisse was brought in to the conservation workshop.
Artworks made of plastic
An EU-funded research project at Statens Museum for Kunst in cooperation with The School of Conservation is examining the issues in order to aid in preserving our works of plastic.
Read about how the works are kept for the future
Small portraits - big problems
A miniature, or rather a portrait miniature, can be used as jewellery or hung for decoration in small cabinets.
Danish Golden Age painter Christen Købke's sketches for the large painting View of a Street in Østerbro outside Copenhagen. Morning Light have been brought from storage to the conservation department.
Yvette Guilberts unwanted freckles
In 1894 the French cabaret singer and actress Yvette Guilbert, had the honour of being portrayed by the painter and graphic artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, in an album of 16 colour lithographs with accompanying text.
Madonna in gold and egg tempera
From time to time, the museum's artworks must pay a visit to the conservation studios. A recent vistor was a Madonna painted by Cecco di Pietro. The painting was restored by conservator Troels Filtenborg.
A difficult problem
Claus Carstensen’s palette consists of more than just colour. To this monumental oil painting he has applied thick grease, soft foam rubber, and his own urine.
Straightening out the Queen Juliane Marie – a conservation process in pictures
How does a conservator flatten a dented piece of art without touching the colour layer?
Andrea Mantegna's Christ as the Suffering Redeemer
The message of Easter - about suffering, resurrection, and redemption - constitutes the main theme of Icon. Its realism and spatial depth and the vivid pain seen in the face of Christ broke new ground within the realm of painting
Read about the work
Freddies Flaking Fingers
Wilhelm Frederik Christian Freddie, 1909-1995, is considered the most renowned surrealist in Denmark - a true enfant terrible. His work The Dancer has now been restored.
Read about the conservation of the art work
Master Drawings with Self-destructive Ink
One of the big conservation problems at Statens Museum for Kunst is that many of the finest foreign and Danish drawings are executed with a self-destructive type of ink: iron gall ink.
Read about the iron gall ink
Preparations for a Journey
Peter Paul Rubens The Ascent to Calvary. The Bearing of the Cross, c. 1634, is being conserved prior to returning temporarily to an exhibition in its native Belgium.
Read about the preparations for the journey
A French Master Drawing
The paper conservators at The National Gallery of Denmark, SMK, have carried out preventive conservation of the museum’s French master drawings.
Read about the french master drawings
A Masterpiece by L.A. Ring
L.A. Ring’s painting Harvest has been exposed to quite a few things during its 120 years of history. Now the art work has been restored for the exhibition L.A. Ring. On the edge of the world.
Read the story about how the art work was prepared
Pastels, charcoal- and chalk drawings: a porous research project
Did you know that a chalk drawing looks like velvet when seen under a microscope?
Read about a research project which will help safeguard some of the Museum’s works
Striving for calm and intimacy
It is not unusual that a conservator discover something during the course of his/her everyday work that piques the curiosity and which, upon closer inspection, offers up new knowledge that adds to our understanding of the artist’s work and helps elucidate his working process.
Delve into the art work, Woman seen from the back by Hammershøi