Picture cleaning at the National Gallery

Scope and Content

This file contains a series of letters, including draft letters by Oppé, dated between 25 Nov 1946-17 May 1947, concerning the picture cleaning controvesy. Correspondees include:

-Allan Gwynne-Jones

-E.H. Ramsden

-Sir Alfred Munnings

-Henry Lamb

-Francis Howard

-Hickman Bacon

-Francis Thompson

Also includes research notes, newspaper cuttings and an annotated catalogue for the exhibition of Cleaned Pictures held by the National Gallery in 1947.

Administrative / Biographical History

In the 1940s, the methods used by the National Gallery (NG) to clean paintings in their collection attracted criticism from many in the art historical community, Oppé included. This controvery peaked in 1947 in response to the NG exhibition, entitled Cleaned Pictures, which made public much of this restoration work. Public interest in the matter was such that a committee was appointed to investigate the practices of the NG. The Weaver Committe, chaired by Dr J.R.H. Weaver of Trinity College, Oxford, published a report in 1950 which determined that the scientific basis for the restoration work carried out by the NG was sound. Led by E.H. Gombrich, Cesare Brandi and others, the debate continued into the 1960s and prompted improvements in conservation and restoration practices at the NG and elsewhere.

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