Visit the Conservator

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

Hidden stories in the sketch

Sketches are an important, almost indispensable tool in the process of creating a work of art. This is where the artists practice their craft, test their chosen subject matter and experiment with composition, light and colour. It is in the sketches that many stories can be told. And this is also where we can decipher the artist’s thoughts and ideas. Methods and techniques become visible, and our understanding of the final work of art grows clearer. Sketches can be seen as thoughts committed onto paper; they take us all the way into the artist’s mind.

Read more about the conservator's work

Digitizing a sound archive

In 1990 an artist by the name of William Louis Sørensen was hired by Statens Museum for Kunst to collect important works of art – made from sound. His job was to acquire sound art, but also recordings that captured rare artistic occurrences, music, performances and happenings from both Danish and international artists.

Read more about the conservator's work.

Before conservation: The complete drawing seen in symmetrical light

Putting a Delacroix puzzle back together

Back in the mid-nineteenth century the French artist Eugene Delacroix created this drawing of The Archangel Michael Vanquishing Satan. The drawing was executed in graphite (pencil) with washes in black, white and red. It is one of several preliminary studies for a ceiling mural in the church of Saint-Sulpice in Paris, and today the drawing is part of the collection of French art at Ny Carlsbergs Glyptotek in Copenhagen.

Read about the conservator's work

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.

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Cleaning a portrait sculptureof the painter C. W. Eckersberg

A portrait sculpture of Eckersberg has been conservated for the exhibition A Beautiful Lie - Eckersberg.

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Loneliness transformed

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.

Read more about what technical analysis could reveal

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.

Read about how the work that SMK has loaned to a church is 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.

Read more about the restoration of a 468-year-old woodcut

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.

Read about the work that proved to be of surprisingly high quality

© Succession H. Matisse/

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.

Read about how the frame stole the spotlight from Madame Matisse

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.

Read the story of how some of the tiniest pieces of art are protected for posterity

Christen Købke

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.

Read about how the works have been studied and restored

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.

Read about how the conservator Louise Cone has conservated the artwork Æterlegme

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

Ortolano. An Altarpiece of Poplar Wood

Conservation is a complex and resource demanding process.

Read about the conservation of the altarpiece Saint Margaret

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

Updated: 26.apr.2018
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