Westpoint – damages: Part 2

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    My apologies for the delay. Here is Part 2 of the damage report from Westpoint.The incident with the fallen display wall was unfortunate but the physical damage to the paintings was limited. Given enough time and resources, each of the damaged works can be restored to its state just before the accident. But the question might be, what state was that?I bought some lots at the auction, oils, watercolours, and drawings. That has given me first-hand opportunity to examine the state of the works in question. The result is worrying. The main reason for this is that the paintings have been exposed to damp, which has led to the growth of mould.Naturally, many or most of the items sold at Westpoint were stored at Robert’s studios under, to state it mildly, less than perfect conditions. Pidgeon excrements on canvasses testify to this, as do Robert’s footprints on drawings, and the numerous spots of paint and other substances scattered over so many of the works. I assume that the paintings were exposed to damp, perhaps even water, occasionally or often. I don’t consider this a problem, but part of the history of each item.The problem is the evidence of damage that has been caused after Robert’s death. When I have inquired about the storage conditions during the time that the Executor has had the responsibility for the paintings, I have been told that the works were stored in containers with climate control. That would have been the proper way, of course. However, for unknown reasons the storage conditions may not have been optimal. I have found extensive, active growth of mould on works I bought, mould that can only be interpreted to have formed fairly recently. I attach an image of extensive mould found inside lot 124, a pencil study for the Burial of John Kynance.On further inquiry I have been told that the containers were not climate controlled after all. Thus moisture in the air in the containers would have condensed to water on temperature drops. That would suffice to sustain the growth of mould on the paintings. If this interpretation is correct, one can suspect that there is mould growing on many paintings, in particular the glazed works (where moisture would tend to condense to water more easily). I have not seen mould visible on the front of works, but trapped within framed and sealed works.Mould can be obvious and clearly visible, but may be difficult to see, especially on dark surfaces. In particular, mould growing within a sealed framed and glased work cannot be found without one taking the piece apart.In the long run, mould may destroy both canvas and paper. How many of the lots sold at Westpoint will have undetected mould, and suffer slow damage as time goes by?I have left some of the items I bought at Westpoint to a specialist in art conservation. My instructions for her were to make sure that the items are now made to last for at least another 300 years. I hope she succeeds. Ten generations from now, we’ll know.



    Your point about mould forming on the inside of glazed pictures stored in the worng conditions is very valid. I too bought a picture with extensive mould on it and have sent it for restoration. I viewed your kynance sketch and decided it was too bad for me to buy. Mould on canvas is one thing, mould on paper another! Robert liked his paintings glazed but increasingly people are removing the glass as it makes the pictures very heavy and liable to damage if they fall. This was the case of the silver lake painting when the timber wall collapsed on it. On he other hand it does protect pictures from dust and accidental or deliberate spills etc. I think Robert did it because the viewer could see their reflection when viewing a picture. Apologies for previous post of mine. In the light of knowing why you were waiting to make your update.



    You raise a number of interesting points. The first is painful, and perhaps pointless, to discuss: couldn't the executor have done a better job? Why was Peter Walmsley chosen? Did he have any experience of the art world before he got involved with the Lenkiewicz estate? Couldn't someone from TLF have advised him and at least ensured that the remaining paintings, drawings and, presumably, writings were better preserved?The second concerns many of us who own paintings or drawings. Some advice as to the best way to protect them would be useful. I believe the oils Robert Lenkiewicz used are light-fast, but does that mean that they can withstand direct sunlight? What about the pastels and watercolours? I would welcome it if there is anyone at .org who can advise about these matters. Restoration is expensive as you well know, better to take preventative action now.

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