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British picture restorers, 1600-1950 - W

An online resource, launched in 2009, selectively updated twice yearly. Last updated August 2019. Contributions are welcome, to Jacob Simon at [email protected].

Introduction Resources and bibliography

[WI] [WR]

*Erich Wagner (1890-1974). Picture restorer.

Outside the scope of online resource, but see Regine Schmidt (ed.),Erich Wagner 1890-1974, exh.cat., Oesterreichische Galerie, 1988, and Runeberg 2005 pp.341, 351-2.

Added March 2019
Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, established 1873.

The Walker Art Gallery was established in 1873 and opened in 1877, fulfilling a long-standing ambition in Liverpool for a civic gallery. Together with the earlier Liverpool museum and library, it was the responsibility of Liverpool Town Council, which became Liverpool City Council in 1880. The Walker passed to Merseyside County Council in 1974. It was moved from local government to national control in 1986 to form part of National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside, renamed as National Museums Liverpool in 2003.

This exploration of the history of conservation at the Walker Art Gallery and its precursor, the Liverpool Royal Institution, is indebted to Morris and Stevens’s pioneering survey in their admirable history of the Walker (cited here as Morris & Stevens 2013, see Sources below). Their account of conservation is mainly devoted to the years since 1945.

It is possible to identify four overlapping phases in the care of the collections:

  1. In the 19th century restoration work was carried out by local artists for the Liverpool Royal Institution.
  2. In the late 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, the Walker Art Gallery, both for its own collection and that on loan from the Institution, employed leading local dealers, framers or artists’ suppliers for routine work, but sent complex cases to specialist restorers in London.
  3. After the Second World War work on the paintings collection was undertaken by Jack Witherop on a freelance basis on the Walker’s own premises.
  4. Following Witherop’s retirement in 1977 the Walker started employing salaried conservation staff as it does today.

1. The Liverpool Royal Institution and the Roscoe collection

The Walker’s forerunner was the Liverpool Royal Institution which acquired some 37 old master paintings formerly in the collection of the banker and historian, William Roscoe of Liverpool (1753-1831). Information on Roscoe’s own care of his pictures is as yet limited. Some of his collection of drawings now belongs to the Walker. Roscoe used a pair of special cabinets, designed by George Bullock, to house his drawing portfolios and medals. Many of his drawings had special card mounts with tissue paper attached as a protective cover, work that may have been carried out c.1814-16 by John Jones, bookbinder and librarian at the Liverpool Athenaeum (Xanthe Brooke, Mantegna to Rubens: The Weld-Blundell Drawings Collection, 1998, pp.8, 14; see also Henry Roscoe, Life of William Roscoe, 1833, vol.2, p.87).

The Institution displayed Roscoe’s pictures on its premises from 1819, subsequently acquiring further works including plaster casts of classical sculpture. It opened a purpose built gallery in 1843 with a room for sculpture on the lower floor and for pictures on the upper (Henry Ormerod, The Liverpool Royal Institution: A record and a retrospect, 1953, pp.32-4). Information about the care of the collection can be gleaned from the Institution’s papers (Liverpool University special collections) and published annual reports and is traced here decade by decade. All pictures named in the following text now belong to the Walker Art Gallery.

William Burland (c.1787-1848), Liverpool artist, framemaker and occasional picture restorer, was paid some £25 for framing work and for cleaning, restoring and varnishing pictures over the years from 1829 to 1838 (Liverpool Royal Institution accounts, LRI 3/1, pp.71, 115). He worked closely with the Liverpool art dealer and auctioneeer, Thomas Winstanley (1768-1845), who acted as adviser to the Institution. A bill from Winstanley in 1836 provides a glimpse into the care of the collection: ‘2 mens time taking down the Pictures, taking them out of the frames, washing them and carrying the frames to Mr Burlands to be relettered, and for hanging the Pictures again after relettering and according to the new arrangement’ (LRI 4/2); Burland’s work in cleaning and varnishing the paintings came to £12.17s (LRI 3/2, p.104). For Burland, see British picture framemakers on this website.

Matthew Mazzoni, formerly plaster figure maker at the British Museum, was paid £22.9s in 1827 for ‘cleaning, repairing & glazing’ the collection of plaster casts (LRI 3/2, p.47), perhaps following the arrival of casts of the Aegina marbles. Alexander Munro, the Institution’s keeper, was responsible for more routine cleaning and repairing of this collection during the 1820s; he is not to be confused with the Inverness sculptor, Alexander Munro (1825-71). The cast collection received further attention in the 1830s (LRI 33/1, p.115). For Mazzoni, see British bronze sculpture founders and plaster figure makers on this website.

The prospect of opening a purpose built gallery led to the decision in 1842 that all the Institution’s pictures should be cleaned and varnished in preparation, although details of this work are not known beyond a specific reference to cleaning a landscape by De Vries (LRI 4/1, 7 April, 4 July 1842). Each frame was to be inscribed with the name of the artist, date of the picture and name of the donor. In 1845 money was voted for the repair of pictures (LRI 1/2/1) but it is not until the 1850s that detailed information is available.

A report on cleaning and repairing pictures in the collection was prepared in 1850 by the professor of the Institution’s school of drawing, Henry Clarke Pidgeon (1807-80), and the President of the Liverpool Academy, Charles Barber (c.1784-1854) (report unlocated but referred to in LRI 1/2/1, 23 October 1850). Following this, pictures were restored by three artists over several years, Pierce Boardman (c.1828-79), Philip Westcott (1814-78) and his less well-known brother, Thomas (c.1818-72). Philip was treasurer of the Liverpool Academy and a former pupil of the local artist and restorer, Thomas Griffiths.

In 1850 and 1851 Boardman lined and probably cleaned and restored four paintings, described as by Calabrese (LRI 1/2/1, 23 October 1850 and subsequently). These must be the four large and somewhat damaged works by Mattia Preti, The Adoration of the Shepherds, The Adoration of the Magi, The Marriage at Cana and Christ in the House of Simon. At the same time Westcott, probably Philip, was at work on other pictures in the collection but there may have been delays in the process. In any case, a payment of £125, a considerable sum, was made for ‘the great work of cleaning, lining and rearranging the Pictures’ (Annual Report for 1851/2, pp.15, 19). Boardman went to London in 1856 and later emigrated to Australia where he became a mining manager.

In 1853 Philip took down two small pictures in need of attention including a ‘Solimeni’, probably the Italian 18th-century Virgin and Child with Angels (inv.2802). He reported that the picture liner in London would see what could be done if the picture could be sent him again, suggesting that in this case, if not in others, the picture had been lined in London rather than Liverpool (LRI 1/3/4, 8 February 1853). Before he himself moved to London in 1855, Philip arranged for his brother to take over care of the pictures. He reported that Thomas would ‘undertake the entire care of the gallery and put the whole of the pictures into perfect condition, spend two or three days per month, (every month,) see the frames dusted or any other attention the gallery may require from time to time’ (LRI 1/3/4, 24 January 1854). He suggested paying him £30 a year in the first three years, during which certain pictures, identified by number, would be restored, and he stated that thereafter expenditure might be reduced to about £20 or £25 a year.

The Institution’s committee wanted as much work done as possible by September that year, 1854, rather than spread over several years (LRI 1/3/4, 24 January, 17 February 1854). By January 1855 Thomas Westcott was able to report that he had completed treatment of various paintings and additionally put eight pictures into ‘complete condition’ (LRI 1/3/4, 31 January 1855), including two Italian panels, Simone Martini’s small Christ Discovered in the Temple and Rosso Fiorentino’s Portrait of a Young Man (nos 9 and 79 in the 1851 catalogue). A few months later he showed the committee a partially cleaned picture by ‘Botticelli’, probably the Adventures of Odysseus cassone panel, now described as Florentine school (LRI 1/3/4, 25 April 1855). He was also cleaning portraits in the Town Hall (Liverpool Mail, 29 September 1855). Both he and his brother obtained materials from the London colourman, Charles Roberson, whether for their own use as artists or for picture restoration (Hamilton Kerr archive, University of Cambridge, MS 245-1993). For Roberson, see British artists' suppliers on this website.

Further pictures belonging to the Institution were suggested for treatment but funds proved inadequate for all the work and in any case Thomas Westcott felt the need to go back on his original commitment to put the collection in ‘perfect condition’ (LRI 1/3/4, n.d. but 1855?). Payments were made to ‘Mr Westcott’ in the two following years of £30 a year, suggesting that work was ongoing (Annual Reports for 1856/7, 1857/8). But by April 1857 a question had been raised over his attendance and in November his account was disputed (LRI 1/3/4, 13 April 1857; LRI 1/3/3, 26 November 1857). A year later he was subject to insolvency proceedings (Liverpool Mail 10 April 1858; London Gazette 13 April 1858). Perhaps resulting from this, his brother, Philip, appears to have taken on some work for £10 in 1858 (Annual Report, 1858/9).

The Institution then turned to ‘Mr. Loveridge’, surely the Irish-born artist and picture restorer, John Loveridge (b.1820?), long resident in Liverpool. He treated two blistered pictures for an estimated £13 in 1862 (Annual Report, 1861/2, p.12, 1862/3, p.15). There matters rested until the itinerant restorer, John Summers (c.1802-1873/79?), then living in Glasgow, approached the Institution in 1864 about relining two pictures, but the lack of a payment in the Institution’s published accounts would suggest that his offer was not taken up (LRI 1/3/4, 21 August 1864). A local Liverpool artist, William Bond (1833-1926), who had been apprenticed as a picture restorer to Thomas Griffiths, cleaned and revarnished five pictures for £16.16s in 1871, including the Rembrandt school, Angel appearing to Hagar, and Rosa da Tivoli’s Stag Hunt, and cleaned, repaired and lined a further four in 1873 for £18.18s, including John Phillip’s Barefooted Friar of 1842 and Melchior de Hondecoeter’s Poultry Yard (LRI 4/2).

Thereafter care of the collection passed to the Institution’s drawing master, William Lewis Kerry (1818-93), appointed as Hon. Keeper, Gallery of Art, in 1876 (Annual Report, 1876/7, p.7). His focus was on surface cleaning and revarnishing and on preventative care such as glazing pictures and control of excessive heating, much the case as with leading London institutions at this time (LRI 1/3/4, correspondence, 1878-88).

As to works on paper, John Gibson’s large early cartoon, The Fall of Satan and the Rebel Angels, was restored and framed by William Burland in 1838 (LRI 3/1, p.115). Later it was sent to London to be cleaned and repaired at the artist’s expense by Joseph Hogarth, a leading framemaker and mounter of drawings, in 1856 or 1857 (T. Matthews, The Biography of John Gibson, R.A., Sculptor, Rome, 1911, pp.19-20). Drawings from the David Pennant collection, originally kept in portfolios in the library, were moved to cases in the Gallery of Art where they could be better seen and, it was claimed, better preserved (Annual Report, 1859/60, p.15). For Gibson’s cartoon, see Edward Morris, Early English Drawings and Watercolours, Walker Art Gallery, 1968, pp.22-4. For Hogarth, see British picture framemakers on this website.

Sculpture could prove problematic. The cast collection was cleaned in 1854 and further cleaning work took place in 1862 when the casts were given a ‘thin coating of paint’ (Annual Report, 1854/5, p.18, 1862/3, pp. 9-10, 15). Francis Chantrey’s large seated statue of William Roscoe was seriously damaged when it was moved to St George’s Hall in 1893 and had to be restored from the fragments under the direction of the British Museum (Annual Report, 1893/4, p.6).

Much of the collection was deposited at the Walker in 1893, with Liverpool Council assuming financial responsibility for its preservation in 1908 (see below). As to the Institution’s remaining works of art, Dr Edgar Athelstone Browne (1841-1917), a Liverpool ophthalmic and dental surgeon, was active in supervising their care and cleaning as is apparent from the Institution’s annual reports. Six works were selected for treatment in 1897 by the London and Liverpool print dealers and publishers, Dunthorne & Brown, apparently including The Flight of Cloelia, now attributed to Betholet Flemal (Annual Report, 1897/8, p.6). Dunthorne & Brown was a partnership between Robert Dunthorne (1850-1925) and Adam Randolph Brown (1865-1901), son of the Scottish landscape painter, William Beattie Brown. This business advertised its services in restoring paintings, prints and drawings (e.g. Chester Courant, 25 August 1897). For Dunthorne, see British picture restorers on this website.

Other works retained by the Institution included George Romney’s eighteen large Cupid and Psyche cartoons, which were a cause of ongoing concern. They received treatment in 1898, 1903-5 and 1913-14, according to successive annual reports. In 1898 the cartoons were cleaned, relined and restored by Dunthorne & Brown (Annual Report, 1898/9, p.8). Robert Dunthorne was instructed to put further cleaning and restoration work in hand in 1912/13, work which took time to complete because the unidentified restorer working for him could only take two cartoons at a time; the cost totalled some £217 (Annual Reports, 1912/13-1914/15). For the cartoons, see Alex Kidson, George Romney 1734-1802, 2002, pp.118-39, esp. note 11.

2. The Walker Art Gallery, 1877 to 1950

The Walker was begun in 1873, thanks to funding from the brewer, Sir Andrew Barclay Walker. It opened to the public in 1877, although purchases were being made for a gallery as early as 1860 (a list is given in Charles Dyall, First Decade of the Walker Art Gallery: A report of its operations from 1877 to 1887, 1888, pp.7-9). Charles Dyall (c.1831-1912), secretary of the Lyceum Club in Liverpool and erstwhile artist, was the first curator, from 1877 until 1904. It was said among councillors at the time of his appointment that the committee responsible for the Walker ‘wanted a man to be their servant not their master’. Successive chairmen took a directorial role until the 1930s (Morris & Stevens 2013, p.9).

The collection has benefited from several major gifts or bequests including paintings by local artists from John Elliot in 1917, Victorian and Edwardian paintings and sculptures from James Smith in the 1920s, Victorian paintings from George Audley in the 1920s and early 1930s, George Holt’s collection of 18th and 19th-century British paintings bequeathed by his daughter for display at Sudley Hall in 1944, the Liverpool Royal Institution’s fine collection including early Italian and Netherlandish paintings, long on loan, in 1948, English watercolours from C.F.J. Beausire in 1972, the Lady Lever Art Gallery and its major collection of British paintings and decorative arts in 1978 and, by purchase, old master drawings from the Weld-Blundell collection in 1995.

In an early instance of preventative care in 1882, the Walker was requested to protect from sunlight the Turner watercolour drawings on loan from the National Gallery (National Gallery archive, NG6/8, p.366). Electric lighting was installed in 1897 as an improvement over gas lighting. Removal of heating appliances from beneath pictures was recommended as a conservation measure to improve environmental conditions in 1905 (Draft Report by the Curator, July 1905, 1905). The heating pipes in the room devoted to the Roscoe Old Masters were removed from the dado, c.1910 (Liverpool Royal Institution, Annual Report, 1910/11, p.5). Another preventative measure was provision of loose calico covers for protecting 79 pictures in store in 1913 (Liverpool Record Office, LIB 2/2, p.111).

Picture restoration was little needed at the Walker at first since much of the collection was not of great age (as suggested by Timothy Stevens). Indeed, conservation hardly features in the Gallery committee’s minutes or published annual reports until the art critic, Edward Rimbault Dibdin (1853-1941), took over from Charles Dyall as curator in 1904, a post he held until 1918. Dibdin took the opportunity of his first report to raise the matter of the proper conservation of the Roscoe old masters and to identify that the time had come when ‘more than ordinary attention’ needed to be given to the ‘material condition’ of works of art in the permanent collection, both the repair of frames and the relining of canvases (Annual Report, 1904, p.75). He prepared a detailed report in July 1905, again identifying the need for relining and restoring pictures. Large sums should be laid out on the Roscoe collection if agreement could be reached with the Liverpool Royal Institution. He added that he had put an end to the over-zealous cleaning of sculpture and he would be taking advice on restoring their marble surfaces as far as possible (Walker Art Gallery. Draft Report by the Curator, July 1905, 1905, p.6).

It was not until 1908 that the City Council came to agreement with the Institution that the Walker would spend not less well than £100 a year for ten years on the conservation of the Roscoe loan collection (Annual Report, 1908, p.62). This decision led to a programme of restoration work, with some Roscoe pictures being sent to London for treatment. At the same time several fairly recent pictures in the Walker’s own collection were relined, including Briton Riviere’s Daniel in the Lion's Den, Alphonse Legros’s The Pilgrimage and Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s large Dante’s Dream. This last was thought to be sufficiently problematic to send to the National Gallery where it was presumably treated by William Morrill & Son, the National’s liners (Annual Report, 1908, p.62; Morris & Stevens 2013, p.224). For further details, see Conservation history of 'Dante's Dream' on the Walker’s website. At the time there was some local criticism of the cleaning of this picture and others (The Art News, November 1909, pp.17, 25). It is remarkable that there was a spate of lining work in the years 1908-14, including quite recent pictures. Of the 19 works listed as lined in annual reports, ten had been painted less than 40 years previously. For Morrill, see British picture restorers on this website.

On occasion recent works in need of attention were treated by the artists themselves. In 1911 W.B. Boadle repaired his portrait of Alderman Bennett (Annual Report, 1911, p.69). In 1915, and then again in 1925, Sir Frank Dicksee, President of the Royal Academy, dealt with the cracking in his picture, A Reverie, then only twenty to thirty years old (LIB 2/2, p.204, 354, 2/5, pp.73-4). The picture remains cracked to this day.

The Walker used the local firm of framemakers, printsellers and picture restorers, R. Jackson & Sons, still in business today, for much work on hanging exhibitions, repairing pictures and regilding frames, while sending more demanding painting conservation work to W. Holder & Sons in London from 1909. Holder’s were responsible for transferring from panel to canvas a large and much damaged 15th-century Lucca school picture, Madonna and Child with Saints, in 1913 at the large cost of £100, a picture which has had ongoing problems (Annual Report, 1913, p.72; Morris & Stevens 2013, p.224). Holder’s estimate for restoring and relining Hubert von Herkomer’s Eventide: A Scene in the Westminster Union for £14 or £15 was accepted in 1914 (LIB 2/2, p.273). For Jackson’s, see British picture framemakers and for Holder’s, see British picture restorers on this website.

Particularly challenging and demanding was William Hilton’s huge triptych Crucifixion, today visually in very poor condition, where the decision was made in 1914 that Holder’s should reline the picture and only then would restoration be considered; the picture was eventually returned in 1921 without any work having been done (LIB 2/2, p.212, LIB 2/4, p.110). Nevertheless Holder’s did treat five panels from the Roscoe collection in 1920 (LIB 2/4, p.33, see also LIB 2/3, p.212). William Holder died in 1919 and the business was carried on by his son of the same name, now with a focus on work for the National Gallery and other major London collections.

Such were the problems of T.F. Dicksee’s bituminous Ideal Portrait of Lady Macbeth that treatment estimates from both W. Dyer & Sons in London and Jackson & Sons in Liverpool were declined in 1918 (LIB 2/3, pp.243, 264). But Jackson’s undertook other unspecified picture restoration work both before and after the First World War (LIB 2/3, p.266). For Dyer, see British picture restorers on this website.

The landscape painter, Arthur Quigley (1868-1945), assistant curator from 1898 and acting curator from 1918, was appointed curator from 1920 and re-designated as director in 1927. Following the First World War, Harry Reeve, a London restorer, undertook work for the Walker, lining Paul Delaroche’s Napoleon Crossing the Alps, Martin Archer Shee’s full-length William Roscoe and five other large works in 1920. The bill came to the considerable sum of £360 (LIB 2/4, pp.43-4), perhaps making the art gallery committee more cautious about sending further work to London. Quigley explained to Reeve that he now had to get competitive estimates. Reeve missed the job to restore paintings from Liverpool Town Hall in 1923, which was given to ‘local firms’ on price. For Reeve, see British picture restorers on this website.

Reeve found it difficult to compete with Liverpool businesses with their lower overheads, notably Grindley & Palmer, who underbid him for the job of lining Solomon J. Solomon’s Samson in 1924. This had unfortunate consequences. Grindley’s relining gave rise to unusual damages to the painting, partly because the paint may not have fully hardened in what was then a fairly recent picture but also because the restorer seems to have resorted to using some kind of unconventional rectangular metal plate to apply pressure during the lining process. There had been problems in 1918 obtaining canvas of an appropriate width for urgent relining work (LIB 2/3, p.212) and it would seem that these problems persisted since the lining for Solomon’s Samson consisted of two lengths of linen joined by a crudely stitched bulky seam. The preceding account depends on Helen Brett, ‘The Conservation History of “Samson” by Solomon J. Solomon’, The Picture Restorer, no.14, 1998, pp.5-9. For Grindley & Palmer, see British picture restorers on this website.

There matters relating to picture conservation go quiet until the 1930s, save for treating two water-damaged works in 1929-30 (LIB 2/5, pp. 301, 354).

For occasional treatment of works on paper, the Walker used local businesses. Jackson & Son were chosen to mount photographs and engravings in 1891 (LIB 2/1, p.277). Two watercolours suffering from mildew and staining, by Albert Hartland and Birket Foster, were restored in 1910 (Annual Report, 1910, p.59) and a further three, by Samuel Prout, Birket Foster and G.H. Dodgson, were restored by Agnew & Sons in Manchester for £12.10s in 1921 (LIB 2/4, pp.66, 82). As the Walker’s curator in 1912 Dibdin preferred mounting the collection in a few uniform sizes, with the exception of large watercolours. He used mounting board supplied by a leading London business, Halsey & Davison, on the recommendation of the British Museum, and dust-proof boxes, presumably solander boxes, provided by Fincham & Co (Dibdin 1912, p.108, see Sources below).

While the care of sculpture was subject to discussion in the 1920s during Quigley’s term of office, little seems to have been done beyond repairing accidental damage to Matthew Noble’s bust, The Duke of Wellington in 1921 (LIB 2/4, p.82). On a visit to Liverpool that year the leading sculptor, Sir William Goscombe John, drew attention to the need for maintenance of statues displayed around the city and commented specifically on the decayed condition of the statues of Michelangelo and Raphael at the entrance to the Walker. He did not recommend treating these two statues beyond washing and coating with a silicate and repairing the damaged hand of Raphael (LIB 2/4, pp.57-8). Subsequently, in 1927 Lord Wavertree (Sir Andrew Walker’s son) suggested gilding or bronzing the two statues. As a result Quigley corresponded with Sir Frank Baines, architect of the Ministry of Works, concerning the treatment of marble statues, and received from him notes on methods for cleaning statues, both marble and bronze (LIB 2/5, pp.178 ff). No further action appears to have been taken.

With the appointment of Frank Lambert (1884-1973) as director in 1931, a professional with considerable museum experience, there was a change in approach. In 1936 he contacted Helmut Ruhemann, a highly experienced German refugee picture restorer, to work on Simone Martini’s Christ discovered in the Temple, probably on the recommendation of Kenneth Clark at the National Gallery (see Morris & Stevens 2013, pp.224-5). But it was not until 1940 that Ruhemann treated the picture, removing discoloured varnish and some old retouching (LIB 1/31, p.22). He cleaned another small early panel, Ercole de’ Roberti’s Pietà, in 1943 (Cleaned Pictures, nos 1, 7, see Sources below). In 1941 Lambert got the leading London restorer, William Drown, to deal with serious paint flaking in Rossetti’s Dante’s Dream, which had been rolled for wartime storage, at an estimated cost of up to £60 plus expenses (LIB 1/31, pp.224-6). In 1945 Drown was authorised to restore the newly acquired large Holbein studio panel portrait of Henry VIII for the considerable sum of £350 (LIB 1/32, p.313). For Ruhemann and Drown, see British picture restorers on this website.

The Second World War was a difficult time for the Walker. The galleries were occupied by the Ministry of Food from 1939 until as late as 1949. The best pictures were stored at various country houses but some of the collection ended up in poor conditions in the cellars (Morris & Stevens 2013, p.79).

3. The Walker in the Witherop years, 1950-77

The years since 1950 are treated here selectively, looking at paintings, works on paper and sculpture. For a more detailed account, see that by Morris and Stevens, who identify ‘that there was at the Gallery from the early 1950s a rare effort to stop merely worrying about conservation problems and a determination to attempt to solve some of them’ (Morris & Stevens 2013, p.224).

One of Hugh Scrutton’s priorities following his appointment as director in 1952 was the documentation and care of the collection. In 1954 he prepared a report on the Walker’s pictures, which revealed that many of the paintings were stored in large stacks in the cellars, ‘resting on the floor and leaned against an outer or inner brick or stone wall’, resulting in canvases that were damp, some suffering from mould, with gilding peeling from plaster frames (Suzanne MacLeod, Museum Architecture: A new biography, 2013, pp.146-8). This report led to the installation of new storage racks with proper lighting and ventilation in 1955-56.

Jack Coburn Witherop (1906-84) worked as a freelance picture restorer at the Walker from 1950 until 1977. He had studied as an artist at Liverpool College of Art and the Royal College of Art, and exhibited at the Royal Academy in the late 1930s and late 1940s. He claimed to have had some restoration training under Prof. E.W. Tristram at the Royal College and some experience at the Vatican studio during a travelling scholarship to Rome in the 1930s (‘Notes on biographical details’, see Sources below). Witherop also studied picture restoration for a short time with Norman Brommelle of the National Gallery in the early 1950s. A photograph in the Walker’s annual report shows Witherop at work removing discoloured varnish from a small painting (Annual Report 1960/1, p.55). For Brommelle, see British picture restorers on this website.

It was in 1946 that Witherop was asked by the Walker to conserve some of its paintings stored in Wales during the war. While not a salaried member of staff, he started work at the Walker itself in 1950 with many paintings to prepare for the Gallery’s reopening the following year. Thereafter he treated about ten pictures a year on a freelance basis. He also worked for the Lady Lever Art Gallery, the Earls of Derby at Knowsley and for other local collections (Morris & Stevens 2013, p.225).

Perhaps reflecting his use of tempera in his own work, Witherop had a particular interest in early Italian and Netherlandish panel paintings and these featured in 1955 in an exhibition at the Walker of recently cleaned pictures from the collection, an idea which was surely inspired by the National Gallery’s 1947 exhibition of cleaned paintings. Works discussed in the exhibition catalogue (Cleaned Pictures, see Sources below) range from early fresco fragments by Spinello Aretino, through three Italian renaissance panels – Signorelli’s Virgin and Child, Rosso’s Portrait of a Young Man and Vasari’s large Sts Peter, Paul and Jerome – to later works on canvas such as Gian Paolo Panini’s Roman Ruins, Allan Ramsay’s Duchess of Leinster, Martin Arthur Shee’s William Roscoe and Thomas Lawrence’s Earl of Leicester.

In his introduction to the catalogue Scrutton articulated that the Gallery wished to preserve works from decay and restore for contemplation the original work of art, ‘stripping it of those accumulated changes which are removable, and restoring any damage just so far as seems necessary to enable an understanding and enjoyment of its original effect’. In reviewing the exhibition, Norman Brommelle noted the minimal restoration but wrote ambiguously, ‘the results here and there were a little disturbing to one trained in National Gallery methods, though the differences between the two galleries in this respect are in degree rather than the kind. The work has, however, in every case been done with judgement and skill’ (Burlington Magazine, vol.97, 1955, p.354). Witherop’s attitude to conservation has been described as more interventionist than became fashionable in the 1980s; over time he became ‘much less certain that the removal of all old varnishes and restorations was either possible or desirable’ (Morris & Stevens 2013, p.228). Witherop suffered from deteriorating eyesight in later years, which made retouching less straightforward.

Witherop later cleaned and restored the triptych by the Master of Aachen Altarpiece, 1962/3, including the National Gallery’s central panel, on long-term loan to the Walker (Liverpool Bulletin, vol.11, 1963-6, p.12). He cleaned, relined and restored Charles Le Brun's Atalanta and Meleager in 1967 (Liverpool Bulletin, vol.12, 1967, pp.28-31). In 1958 Witherop was joined by a new part-time freelance conservator with American training, Gigi Crompton, née Richter, who worked separately from him, mainly on 19th-century pictures (Annual Report, 1958/9, p.61). For Richter, see British picture restorers on this website.

Crompton was replaced in 1962 by Courtauld-trained Harriet Owen Hughes, who has left an account of her experience of working as a freelance in the Walker’s conservation studio over many years. In particular she recalls the studio where she first worked, a converted gallery but when the Central Library next door was extended blocking out the window the studio was moved to the Bartlett Gallery. At her persuasion a vacuum hot table for relining paintings, made by Peter Koch in Hanover, was installed in 1964. Witherop’s instinctive lack of enthusiasm for the process meant that wax lining was ‘probably used less in Liverpool than elsewhere in Britain’ and was largely phased out at the Walker after 1974 (Morris & Stevens 2013, p.229). Witherop used dry pigments bound in varnish or in a tempera made with casein for retouching but his practice of sourcing an inappropriate form of titanium dioxide from a laboratory supplier in place of the more expensive variety from an artists’ supplier has meant that his retouchings containing white have sometimes become chalky looking. His varnish was mainly dammar. When necessary paintings were x-rayed in medical facilities locally. The preceding account is largely based on Harriet Owen Hughes, ‘Reminiscences on Conservation at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool’, The Picture Restorer, no.36, 2010, pp.11-12.

Another change at the Walker was the developing interest in preventative conservation, which included the introduction of air conditioning in some galleries in the 1960s and protective glazing of paintings in others. The process of air conditioning was finally completed in 2001 (Morris 2013, pp.224, 236-8). The Walker has at times taken a restrictive approach to lending pictures after unfortunate experiences with Alphonse Legros’s The Pilgrimage in 1957 and Henry Holiday’s Dante and Beatrice in 1965 (Morris & Stevens 2013, p.240).

The Liverpool sculptor, Herbert Tyson Smith (1883-1972), repaired John Gibson’s Love Tormenting the Soul by replacing a missing wing and also repaired the socle of a work by Joseph Nollekens (Annual Report 1962/3, p.18; information from Timothy Stevens). He removed the marbles from Ince Blundell and installed a selection at the Walker. One of the Ince Blundell marbles, Satyr and Hermaphrodite, was repaired in 1960 by local stone carver, Norman Hopgood (Liverpool Echo, 9 November 1960). In preparing other sculptures as they were returned to display in the 1960s and 1970s the Walker engaged Kenneth Hempel and John Larson at the Victoria and Albert Museum for more complicated work on a freelance basis including treating sculptures by Harry Bates, Bartolomeo Cavaceppi, John Deare and Charles Bell Birch in the early 1970s. Straightforward cleaning was done locally and included cleaning life-size bronzes by Onslow Ford and Conrad Dressler in 1970/1, following methods recommended by the Victoria and Albert Museum.

As to works on paper, the Walker turned to the British Museum for advice when conservation of the collection came to receive serious consideration in the 1950s. John Skillen (1905-75) from the British Museum worked on a freelance basis systematically going through the collection of drawings from 1957 until his death in 1975, but with much mounting work on prints and drawings carried out locally by J. Davey & Sons of Liverpool (Annual Reports 1957/8-1962/3). Much of the work involved removing old frames and acidic mounts, sometimes undertaking cleaning and conservation before inlaying and remounting in acid-free board to a range of standard sizes which could be housed in solander boxes. Mount cutting was brought in-house from 1968 and was carried out at first by the Walker’s craftsman, Leslie Smith (Annual Report 1968/9, p.16; Morris & Stevens 2013, p.231).

In the wider regional context Liverpool City Council was a founding member of the North West Museums and Art Galleries Service in 1962, a regional conservation service which initially selected Manchester City Art Galleries for the treatment of oil paintings and Liverpool Museum for archaeological conservation but then in 1973 centralised all its activities in new facilities in Blackburn; isolated from Manchester and Liverpool it could never provide a successful regional service and closed soon after a change in remit in 2003 (this analysis depends on Morris & Stevens 2013, pp.98-100).

4. The years since 1977

There have been many changes in more recent years, summarised here but not treated in detail. Liverpool became a national museum in 1986, subsuming the Walker, meaning that Timothy Stevens, the Walker’s director from 1970, was moved sideways and the Walker lost a degree of independence. The system of employing conservation staff on a freelance basis was abandoned when Jack Witherop retired in 1977. Jim France, who had trained at the National Gallery, then became the Walker’s first permanent salaried conservator in 1978, before moving to the National Museum of Wales in 1986 (Morris & Stevens 2013, p.229). A unified conservation department was established in the new National Museums on Merseyside in 1989 (Morris & Stevens 2013, pp.242-3), leading France to return to head the new department. Another important recruit was John Larson, who moved to Liverpool from the V&A to head sculpture conservation from 1991 until his retirement in 2004 (Morris 2013, p.243; Conservation News, September 2004).

The Lady Lever Art Gallery was taken on by the Walker in 1978. The history of conservation at the Lady Lever since its opening in 1922 is not traced here but see Morris & Stevens 2013, pp.238-9. Liverpool University’s collection contains some paintings once belonging to the Liverpool Royal Institution, a few of which were restored in the 1950s and 1960s by the Liverpool firm, J. Davey & Sons, but which are not the subject of the present history.

Liverpool opened the Conservation Centre in the old Midland Railways warehouse in 1996, providing studios to a high standard and on a large-scale at considerable cost, then with at least three painting conservators, five paper conservators and five sculpture conservators and further staff covering other materials (Morris & Stevens 2013, p.243). The Centre won the European Museum of the Year award in 1998. The Centre’s public exhibition and education areas, which received from 40,000 to 130,000 visitors a year, closed in 2010 (see Watts in Sources below) and staffing has been reduced. For a short history, see Creating the Conservation Centre on the National Museums Liverpool website.

Painting conservators at the Walker Art Gallery have included Jacqueline Ridge (1988-96, now National Galleries of Scotland), Kiffy Stainer-Hutchins (1990-98, now in private practice, Norfolk), Helen Brett (1996-99, now Tate), Nicola Christie (head of paintings conservation, 1998-2009, now Royal Collection), David Crombie (1993 to date, now senior paintings conservator) and Rebecca Kench (2002 to date). It was Ridge and Stainer-Hutchins who were instrumental in setting up the new studio in the Conservation Centre, together with Jim France.

Certain pictures have attracted particular interest. Kiffy Stainer-Hutchins’s work cleaning and studying the anonymous Tudor full length portrait, A Gentleman of the Delves Family, in 1995 revealed an extraordinary portrait (see Picture of the month: The Delves Portrait on the National Museums Liverpool website. A series of more recent treatment are discussed at Paintings conservation, Liverpool museums on the same website.

In paper conservation following the death of John Skillen in 1975 work was carried out by Eric Harding and Judith Chantry on a freelance basis until a paper conservation studio was set up at the Lady Lever Art Gallery in 1980 and the Gallery appointed its own paper conservator in 1981, Maria Vilaincour. Paper conservation was transferred to a much larger studio, housed at the Liverpool Maritime Museum, in 1990, and to the new Conservation Centre in 1996 as part of a unified service for the Walker and Liverpool museums. Sally Ann Yates was head of paper conservation from 1991. The above account is drawn from Morris & Stevens 2013, pp.232-3, 243, together with information from David Crombie. For Chantry, see British picture restorers on this website.

Liverpool has gained a distinctive and thoughtful reputation for high standards in conservation. The service is now managed on much tighter staffing levels than when the Conservation Centre was set up. For current information, see Conservation and managing our collections, Liverpool museums on the National Museums Liverpool website.

Sources: Documents prefixed LRI form part of the Liverpool Royal Institution archive housed in Liverpool University special collections. The Institution’s published annual reports cover the twelve months to 31 January; these reports are referred to here as Annual Report, although they took various titles, including Address for the Proprietors; see in particular Address for the Proprietors, 1852, and Report for MDCCCLVI-LVII, 1857. See also H.A. Ormerod, The Liverpool Royal Institution: A record and a retrospect, 1953, and C.P. Darcy, The Encouragement of the Fine Arts in Lancashire 1760-1860, 1976, pp.20-62.

Documents prefixed LIB relating to the Walker are housed in Liverpool Record Office. For the Walker Gallery, see Edward Morris and Timothy Stevens, History of the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool 1873-2000, 2013, chapter 10 on conservation, pp.224-45. Other published material includes E. Rimbault Dibdin, ‘The Care of Paintings, Drawings, Engravings and other Art Treasures’, Museums Journal, vol.12, 1912, pp.101-12; Cleaned Pictures: An exhibition of pictures from the collection of the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, mainly cleaned and restored in the years 1950-1955 by J. Coburn Witherop, Liverpool, 1955; Suzanne MacLeod, Museum Architecture: A new biography, 2013; Siobhan Watts et al., ‘Liverpool’s Conservation Centre: Fourteen Years of Public Access’, in Emily Williams (ed.), The Public Face of Conservation, 2013, pp.16-25.

Certain material was consulted in files kept in the Walker’s Edward Morris cabinet including the printed Draft Report by the Curator, July 1905, 1905 and the typescript, ‘Notes on biographical details given by Jack Coburn Witherop to Gail Engert on 7th August 1970’. Post-1945 committee minutes and individual picture files have not been consulted. The late Edward Morris, October 2013, and Timothy Stevens, September 2015, were kind enough to discuss Liverpool’s history with me. With thanks also to Xanthe Brooke, Ann Bukantas, David Crombie, Harriet Owen Hughes, Stephen Lloyd and Kiffy Stainer-Hutchins.

Last updated March 2019
Herbert Walker, 3a Wychcombe Studios, Englands Lane, London NW3 1927-1962. Picture restorer and expert.

It remains to be established whether this picture restorer is the Herbert William Walker (1885-1961?), who was born in Chelsea in 1885, married Alice Whyberd in the Lambeth district in 1905 and died at 90 Fellows Road, Hampstead, in 1961 leaving effects worth only £35 with his widow, Alice, as administrator of his estate. He was recorded in the 1911 census as a mount cutter to the picture trade (worker), age 26, the son of William John and Annie Walker.

Herbert Walker described himself as a picture restorer and expert on his notepaper in 1934, giving 9 Chalcot Gardens, Hampstead as an additional address. By 1939 he was calling himself ‘Consulting Expert on the Condition of Pictures’ and by 1940 offering ‘Picture Restoration (To the Tate Gallery)’ (TG18/1/1/8/7). In 1946 in a letter to the National Gallery, he added the British Council and Liverpool Art Gallery in manuscript to the Tate Gallery as clients (National Gallery archive, NG16/49/1).

Walker undertook considerable work for the Tate, restoring many paintings, 1933-42, including Turner’s Mercury sent to admonish Aeneas, 1934 (National Gallery archive, NG 13/1/11, Tate archive, TG 18/1/1/1). At one stage he was quoting prices for carrying out work on his own premises or, at about half as much again, at the Tate Gallery itself (TG 18/1/1/1). During the Second World War the Tate mainly used Helmut Ruhemann (qv) for restoration; in 1948 Walker wrote to the Tate that his London studio, bombed in the war, had been repaired, but he does not seem to have received further work from the Gallery (TG18/1/1/8/7).

For the Royal Academy, Walker repaired Edward Bird’s Proclaiming Joash King and William Daniell’s View on the Coast of Scotland, and also the Thornhill ceiling paintings in the secretary’s room in 1932. He cleaned and repaired a further 19 pictures in the Diploma Gallery in 1933. He relined and repaired ceiling paintings in the council room in 1935. He provided a report on four portraits by Joshua Reynolds in 1936 (Royal Academy, RAA/SEC/8/45/1), though it was Horace Buttery (qv) who treated Reynolds’ George III and Queen Charlotte. Walker surfaced cleaned five 19th- and 20th-century royal portraits in 1937 (Royal Academy annual published reports).

Walker was chosen to clean and restore Joshua Reynolds’s The Laughing Girl in the Iveagh Bequest, Kenwood, in 1939 on the advice of Kenneth Clark (Bryant 2003 pp.348, 350). He supplied James Bolivar Manson with an estimate in April 1940 for work to be done on a portrait by Goya of his mother, and corresponded with Kenneth Clark in the early 1940s (Tate archive, TGA 806/1/944, TGA 8812/1/1/14).

James Walker, 15 Duke St, Edinburgh 1845-1851 (in 1851 listed as his home), Assembly Rooms, 54 George St 1851-1854, 36 Hanover St 1857-1861, 31 Hanover St 1864. Picture liner and cleaner, carver and gilder.

James Walker (1809-1864 or later) was born in Eccles, Berwickshire, the son of James Walker and Euphan Fairbairn. He is probably to be identified with the James Walker, carver, gilder and artists’ colourman, who was trading from 83 Broughton St 1833, 29 George St 1834, 30 George St 1835 and 31 George St 1835-42 (Smith 1988 p.106), and who advertised in 1841 that he was giving up business in picture framing (The Scotsman 3 February 1841, information from Helen Smailes).

Walker was recorded in the 1851 census at 13 Duke St, Edinburgh, as a master picture liner and cleaner, age 41, born in Eccles, with his wife Eliza, age 37, and employing a boy. He moved to premises under the Assembly Rooms at 54 George St in 1851, trading as a carver and gilder, picture framemaker and picture cleaner. These premises had previously been occupied by the picture framemaker, John Taylor (see British artists' suppliers on this website). Perhaps in 1854 Walker left Scotland for a while, advertising his return in 1857 (Caledonian Mercury 13 July 1857). In 1864, he advertised that he was resuming business as a picture cleaner and restorer, at 31 Hanover St (Caledonian Mercury 14 January 1864).

Restoration work: Walker advertised as a picture liner, cleaner and restorer in the Edinburgh Post Office directory, 1845, and again in almost identical terms in 1847. He set out the advantages of lining pictures, claiming, ‘His mode of lining gives a smooth and solid surface to the Pictures… and… renders the Picture ever afterwards impervious to damp’, furthermore drawing attention to ‘his mode of transferring Pictures painted on pannel to canvas’, a process which, he said, he had fully studied on a recent lengthened residence on the Continent.

James Walker, picture cleaner, received payment of £19.4s in 1847 from John Hamilton of Bardowe (National Archives of Scotland, GD161/box 20, papers of Buchanan Family of Leny, Perthshire, information from NAS card index). Walker lined Giovanni Battista Tiepolo’s Finding of Moses in 1847 (National Gallery of Scotland, see National Archives of Scotland, Royal Institution minute book, NG 3/1/1 p.458-9, information from Helen Smailes). His printed framemaker’s label from the Assembly Rooms can be found on Horatio McCulloch’s Study on the Water of Leith, 1853 (Smith 1988 no.35).

Added March 2018
Wallace & Whyte, Edinburgh. Sculptors and marble cutters.

See under the Royal Institution of Scotland.

Parry Walton, ?parish of St Bartholomew the Great, London 1665, ?parish of St Martin-in-the-Fields 1668, Lincoln’s Inn Fields 1675-1702. Still-life painter, copyist, picture restorer, picture dealer.

Bainbrigg Buckeridge in 1706 described ‘Parrey Walton’ as a copyist and still-life painter, who studied under Robert Walker, identifying his ‘particular excellence… in knowing and discovering Hands’, and adding that he was ‘remarkable for mending the works of many of the great masters’ (Buckeridge 1706 p.476, who was followed by Horace Walpole in his Anecdotes of Painting in England). There is a still-life by Walton in the Cartwright collection at Dulwich (Mr Cartwright’s Pictures, exh.cat., 1987, Dulwich Picture Gallery, no.76; see also Ingamells 2008 p.86).

Parry Walton (d.1702) married Elizabeth Guy in October 1663, and had children, who can probably be identified as Peter (see below), christened in May 1665 at St Bartholomew the Great as the son of Pery Walton, and Elizabeth, born and christened at St Martin-in-the-Fields in 1668. He paid his dues to the Painter-Stainers in 1674 and promised to bring his proof piece (Painter-Stainers’ Company court minutes, 1 July 1674, from notes by Sir Oliver Millar (Paul Mellon Centre, Millar Archive). Parry Walton’s father-in-law, Peter Guy, merchant tailor, in his will made 9 April and proved 16 July 1675, left property to his grandson and godson, Peter Walton, Parry’s son. The painter, John Greenhill, had lodgings at Walton’s in Lincoln’s Inn Fields and died there in 1676 (Vertue vol.1, p.30).

In his own will, made 25 March and proved 9 April 1702, Parry Walton, painter of Lincoln’s Inn Fields, left the residue of his estate to his wife and executrix, Elizabeth, subject to modest legacies to his son, Peter, and his three married and two unmarried children, Elizabeth Bracken, Sarah Emery, Anne Draycott, Thomas Walton and Alice Walton. He placed unusual restrictions on his elder son, Peter’s bequest, relating to the property which Peter Guy had bequeathed his son many years before. His younger son, Thomas had been apprenticed to Charles Cutler of the Vintners’ Company in 1697 (Cliff Webb, London Livery Company Apprenticeship Records: Vintners’ Company 1609-1800, vol.43, 2006, p.307). In December 1702, two sales were held of his ‘Excellent Collection of Italian Pictures’ at his ‘late Dwelling-house in Holbourn Row in Lincolns-Inn-Fields, within four doors of Great-Queen-Street’ (Daily Courant 1 December and 11 December 1702).

Restoration and other work: Parry Walton was appointed Surveyor and Keeper of the King’s pictures on 29 April 1679 (National Archives, LC 3/28, p.169, see J.C. Sainty and R.O. Bucholz, Office-Holders in Modern Britain, vol.11, Officials of the Royal Household 1660-1837, 1997, p.51). He received a salary of £200 a year. In 1682 he was termed as ‘Cleanser’ of the pictures, and in 1688 ‘Mender and Repairer’. He was followed by his son Peter in this office in 1701 (see below).

For the Queens’ Chapel at St James’s Palace, Walton was paid £15.15s 'for 5 Altar pieces and 3 pieces putt in each picture' in 1683 (Colvin 1976 p.251).

At the Banqueting House in Whitehall, Walton lined and cleaned Rubens’s ceiling paintings in 1687, claiming payment of £212 the following year and receiving final payment of £100 of a total £300 in 1693 (William A. Shaw (ed.), Calendar of Treasury Books, 1685-1689, vol.8, part 4, 1923, p.1986, and Calendar of Treasury Books, 1702, vol.17, part 2, 1939, pp.637, 707-8, also recording payment for work at Hampton Court, see below; see also Millar 1977 p.87). Walton’s work was done under the supervision of Christopher Wren, who described himself as an ‘eye witness of the paines and skill he hath used in this worke’, deeming his charges as very modest and reasonable (Wren Society, vol.18, 1941, p.67, see also Martin 2005 p.111).

Walton continued to work for the Crown after William and Mary came to the throne, as is apparent from the diaries of Constantijn Huygens the younger (see Sources below). Huygens first visited Walton in Holborn Row, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, early in 1689. A few months later he was asked by the Queen whether Walton had the necessary expertise to restore Mantegna’s Triumph of Caesar, work which the King in December 1690 wanted put in hand immediately. Walton was paid for lining and repairing three sections of the Triumph for £60 in 1693 (Millar 1977 pp.86-7). Walton also repaired the Raphael tapestry cartoons at Hampton Court at a cost of £200, receiving payments in 1691 and July 1693; this or additional work appears to have been done with Henry Cooke (qv) (Vertue vol.3, p.43). In December 1696 it was ordered that he should be paid £400 for mending and repairing the king’s pictures and for providing materials over the two previous years and a further £50 for moving pictures to and from Whitehall, Hampton Court, Windsor and Kensington (William A. Shaw (ed.), Calendar of Treasury Books, 1696-7, vol.9, 1933, p.331). He restored Tintoretto's large Esther before Ahasuerus (Shearman 1983 p.239).

For the Duke of Somerset, Walton undertook the 'lineing, primeing and mending the peece of the Senatores of Titian’, namely The Vendramin Family (National Gallery), receiving payment of £20 on 20 March 1683 (see Penny 2008 p.220). At Petworth he charged £25.10s in 1689-90 for ‘lineing cleansing priming and packing all of Vandykes Pictures, 2 large ones, and the Queens Picture’, having earlier supplied ‘two Italian pictures & 7 frames’ (Gervase Jackson-Stops, ‘Picture Frames at Petworth’, Country Life, vol.168, 1980, p.799). Elsewhere, he also repaired Van Dyck’s much damaged Sir Kenelm and Lady Digby with their two children, perhaps in the 1680s, according to George Vertue writing in 1741 or 1742 (Vertue vol.6, p.121; the painting was subsequently repaired by a painter named Wignal).

Walton restored paintings for Mary Beale and her husband Charles in 1677 and 1681, the two years for which Charles’s pocket-books survive (Talley 1981 pp.302-3). In August 1677 Walton was paid £1 for lining, cleaning and mending an Italian fowl piece belonging to Dr Patrick, including getting out cracks and puckerings, in April 1681 £1 for mending and piecing two pictures of Lord Fauconbridge’s father and mother, and in November 1681 £1 for mending an old picture for Mr Secretary Jenkins. Charles Beale records visiting Walton’s at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in November 1681 to see four portraits by Van Dyck, notably Lady Carnarvon, which was sold to ‘Mr Riley’ for £35, and also a head by Holbein of ‘Lord Cromwell’. Charles Beale also records that his wife painted a portrait of ‘Mr Walton’s son’ in November 1681, possibly Peter Walton (see below).

Picture dealing:As a picture dealer and adviser, Walton played an active role. Together with ‘Mr Baptist' (John Baptist Gaspars), Walton valued at £311 a collection of paintings sold by ‘Mr Flescher’, presumably Balthasar or Tobias Flessier (qv), to the Marquis of Worcester, c.1674 (Gloucestershire Record Office, Badminton Muniments, D2700/QA3/1). Walton assisted in the dispersal of Peter Lely’s collection of pictures in 1682 in three ways, appraising the collection with Mr Baptist, varnishing the collection before sale (he was paid £2.10s on 17 November 1681 for these tasks, plus a further £3.15s) and purchasing four pictures at the sale itself for £16.14s (British Library, Add.MS 16174 ff.16, 29, 42, see also Talley 1981 p.359).

In 1684, and again in 1686, Parry Walton and Grinling Gibbons (‘Two of His Majesties Servants in Ordinary’), received royal permission to hold a sale of Italian pictures in the Banqueting House in Whitehall (London Gazette 22 May 1684, 10 May 1686). Walton held six further sales between 1688 and 1692 (Pears 1988 pp.61, 241 n.54; see also The art world in Britain 1660 to 1735, search ‘Walton’, for the late Duke of Norfolk’s sale and that of John Riley in 1692 and prints and drawings from Peter Lely’s collection in 1694).

There is evidence that Walton would clean pictures coming up for sale. In 1692 Sir Charles Lyttleton wrote to Christopher Hatton, 1st Viscount Hatton, seeking advice about selling pictures, ‘In a letter I lately had from your Lordship you said something by way of caution to my dealing with Mr Walton, which pray, my Lord, be a little more plain with me. Have you had any experience of his not dealing fairly with you? For I have been advised and know not who to trust better in the disposal of my pictures. The method I use with him: I send them to a house close by him, for he has not room in his own, it is already so full, and there he cleans them and mends what is worn or torn; and, after, I am to get a couple of painters who, together with himself, appraise them; which Appraisement the two Painters set their hands to the Lists of; and then they will be exposed in an auction…’ (E.M. Thompson (ed.), ‘Correspondence of the family of Hatton’, Camden Society, vol.2, 1878, pp.171-2, spelling modernised).

For abbreviations, see Resources and bibliography.

Sources: ‘Diaries of Constantijn Huygens, 1688-96’, National Library of the Netherlands; trans. Sanne van der Schee from Constantijn Huygens, Journaal van 21 October 1688 tot 2 Sept. 1696 (Utrecht, 1876-7; online edition 2009), in 'The art world in Britain 1660 to 1735’, at http://artworld.york.ac.uk, accessed 25 September 2012.

Peter Walton, parish of St Giles, London 1711,parish of St Anne Soho 1714,Somerset House by 1732 to 1745. Picture restorer and dealer.

Peter Walton (1665-1745) succeeded his father, Parry Walton (see above), as ‘Mender and Repairer’ or ‘Surveyor and Keeper’ of the Royal Collection pictures on 1 March 1701 at a salary of £200 (J.C. Sainty and R.O Bucholz, Office-Holders in Modern Britain, vol.11, Officials of the Royal Household 1660-1837, 1997, p.51, see also Millar 1991 p.15). In this capacity he prepared a catalogue of pictures belonging to Queen Anne at Kensington, Hampton Court and Windsor Castle, c.1705-10 (Millar 1963 p.38; extracts given in Vertue vol.6, p.161). In 1723, he was described as one of the ablest judges of pictures and, according to the painter, Thomas Wright, writing to James Stanley, 10th Earl of Derby, Walton was ‘keeper of the Kings Store Houses of Pictures and has the care of most of the fine collections belonging to the Nobility’ (Russell 1989 p.157).

For much of his career Walton was based at Somerset House, as when in 1732 he received a royal visitation by river: ‘On Saturday in the Evening her Majesty, the Prince of Wales, The Duke and the five Princesses went in Coaches… to Chelsea Hospital… and went on board the Prince of Wales’s fine Barge,… and… they proceeded to Somerset House… where [they] viewed Mr. Walton’s Progress in cleaning and mending the Royal Pictures’ (London Evening Post 8 July 1732, see also Geoffrey Beard, ‘William Kent and the Royal Barge’, Burlington Magazine, vol.112, 1970, pp.488-92). The previous month it had been reported that Walton was preparing a plan for the Queen to enlarge the picture gallery at Somerset House and that he was repairing several paintings (Read’s Weekly Journal 24 June and 1 July 1732).

As Peter Walton of St Giles (‘ye Queens painter’ in the register), he married Margaret Abbott in March 1711 (National Archives, RG 7/026). They had a daughter Mary, born in 1714 and christened at St Anne Soho. ‘Walton’ was a member of the Rose and Crown Club of artists (Vertue vol.6, p.35, see also Bignamini 1991). Peter Walton, ‘from Somerset house’, was buried 17 March 1745 at St Paul Covent Garden (William H. Hunt (ed.), The Registers of St Paul’s, Covent Garden, vol.4, 1908, p.411). In his will, made 9 November 1727 and proved 19 March 1745, Peter Walton, storekeeper to His Majesty, left his estate to his wife Margaret and daughter Mary. Subsequently his name was mentioned when a collection of pictures belonging to his son-in-law, the late Thomas Butler, was advertised for sale (Public Advertiser 20 November 1755).

Restoration work: Peter Walton visited Woburn Abbey for a fortnight in 1692 to repair some of the portraits, charging £19.5s, including £4 for repairing Hieronymous Custodis’s Lady Elizabeth Bruges and £3 for the same artist’s 3rd Lord Chandos (Scott Thomson 1937 pp.298-9; still at Woburn, information from Edward Town). He was also active as a picture dealer and adviser, selling pictures to Charles, 6th Earl of Dorset, in 1695/6 and 1696/7 (Centre for Kentish Studies, Sackville Manuscripts, U269/A196/11, A197/2).

Walton was paid £5.7s.6d on 24 December 1708 by the Earl of Sunderland in satisfaction of a bill for variously cleaning, repairing, straining and varnishing nine portraits, three half-lengths, Lely’s Lady Spencer, Lely’s Sir Thomas Isham and Cornelius Johnson’s Lady Craven, at £1 each and the heads at 10s each (British Library, Add.MS 61655 f.180). He received part-payment from the Duchess of Marlborough on 16 June 1709 for work to the value of £192.10s undertaken for the Duke, variously lining, straining, repairing, varnishing and cleaning paintings or, in one case, glueing a panel; this work included a series of mythological paintings described as by Titian, including two large double pieces at £30 each and five single scenes at £20 or £15 each, as well as various works by Rubens and Jordaens (British Library, Add.MS 61355 f.3, 61678 f.189).

Walton received £20 from James Sotheby for mending and cleaning pictures and medals in 1710 and a further £1.5s the following year for cleaning the ‘Marriage of Cana in Galilee’ (Sotheby notebooks, V&A National Art Library). He was paid £8.15s in 1710 by Mr Delaval, perhaps Admiral Delaval, for lining, cleaning, repairing, varnishing, and supplying stretcher frames, for five old master paintings including ‘Basson’s Vilcanns’, perhaps a version of Jacopo or Francesco Bassano’s The Forge of Vulcan (John Robinson, The Delaval Papers. How they were discovered: with numerous family letters, etc, c.1890, p.31, information from Oliver Garnett, April 2010, who also makes the Bassano identification).

According to George Vertue in 1731, Walton some years previously cleaned the picture of Lord Chancellor Bacon at Gorhambury, attributed to Paul Vansomer, when some parts were painted over (Vertue vol.4, pp.10, 16).

For abbreviations, see Resources and bibliography.

Charles Hadfield Ward (trading as Robert Ward & Son), 25 York St, Derby 1901-1925, 12½ Friargate 1925-1932 or later, 12 Friargate 1935-1952 or later. Carver and gilder, later picture restorer.

Charles Hadfield Ward (1881-1969) was born in the Derby district in 1881, marrying there in 1908. In censuses, he was recorded at 25 York St, Derby, in 1901 as a carver and gilder, like his father, Robert, with his mother Mary and seven brothers and sisters, and in 1911 again as a carver and gilder, working on his own account at home, with his wife Eliza and daughter Gladys.

In 1922, Robert Ward, whether the father, born c.1846, or the son of the same name, born c.1865, advertised from 12½ Friargate as a carver, gilder and picture framemaker, picture restorer and dealer in fine arts, offering to clean and restore paintings and engravings, and claiming that the business had been established in 1847 (Kelly’s Directory of Derbyshire, p.38).

In an obituary notice, following his death in his 90th year, Charles Hadfield Ward was described as one of the best-known picture restorers in the Midlands, having carried out work at Haddon Hall, Kedleston Hall and Melbourne Hall in Derbyshire (Rosemary Meynell, The Times 15 March 1969). ‘The art of restoration’, he would say, ‘lies in knowing when to stop’. His father is said to have inherited the secrets of his trade from Charles Hadfield of the firm of Mosley & Nephew (for Moseley, see British picture framemakers on this website). He traded as Robert Ward & Son. He was followed by his daughter, Margaret, according to his obituarist.

*Ralph Warner, 25 Brewer St, London 1905-1908, 16 Sherwood St, W 1909, 32 Brewer St 1910-1912, not listed 1913, 39 Brewer St 1914-1920, not listed 1921, 14 Clifford St, Bond St, W1 1922-1929, 169 Piccadilly (Dudley House), W1 1930-1948. Picture restorer, dealer and author.

Ralph Warner (1876-1948) was born in Bethnal Green in 1876. He trained at the Heatherley School of Fine Art in London. He was apparently employed as a picture restorer as early as 1901. He set up independently in or before 1905 and continued in business as a picture restorer until his death in 1948. He also dealt in and wrote about Dutch still-life painting, published a pioneering survey, Dutch and Flemish flower and fruit painters of the XVIIth and XVIIIth centuries (1928), and some of the paintings which he illustrated in his book are now in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford (see Fred G. Meijer, The Collection of Dutch and Flemish Still-life Paintings bequeathed by Daisy Linda Ward, 2003, p.17).

Warner married Ada Ethel M. Bellingham in 1900 in the Dartford district. He can be traced in census records, in 1891 as one of seven children of Frank and Mary Warner, in 1901 in Mornington Road, St Pancras, as a picture restorer (worker), with his wife Rose (apparently misrecorded), and in 1911 at Swanley Junction, Farningham, by now age 35, as an artist and picture restorer and employer, with his wife Ada Ethel Mary Warner and two children.

Warner died in 1948 at 21 St Edmunds Terrace, Regents Park, described as of Swanley Junction, Kent, leaving effects worth £1089, with probate granted to Ada Ethel Mary Warner, his widow. An exhibition, Masterpieces of Dutch and Flemish Painting, was held in his memory by the Eugene Slatter Gallery in 1949, honouring his role as a scholar, picture restorer and co-founder of the Association of British Picture Restorers (The Times 17 February 1949). The exhibition catalogue identifies Warner’s special interest in Dutch and Flemish flower and still life paintings.

William Waters (active 1722-d.1767?), Pall Mall, London by 1729-1747, The King’s Arms, Pall Mall 1731, The Queen’s Arms, Pall Mall 1743. Picture framemaker, carver and gilder, picture cleaner and liner.

See British picture framemakers on this website.

Edward F. Watson, 2 Poland St, Oxford St, London 1830-1831, 49 Poland St 1833-1837, St James’s Gallery of Art, 201 Piccadilly 1838-1877. Picture dealer and picture restorer, artist, carver and gilder.

It seems that Edward Façon Watson (1804-92) was the individual christened at Kirton in Holland, Lincolnshire, on 13 February 1804, his name given as Edward Faken Watson. He was a very occasional exhibitor at the Royal Academy and the Royal Society of British Artists from 1839 to 1870. He had an account with the artists’ suppliers, Roberson, 1842-63, from 201 Piccadilly (Woodcock 1997). In the census in 1861 Watson was listed as an artist and picture restorer, age 50, and in 1871 as a carver and gilder, age 68, born in Lincolnshire, and in 1881 as retired, age 77, Hasbard Place, Boston, Lincoln. At his retirement in 1877, he held a sale of watercolours and picture frames (The Times 10 March 1877). He died at home at the age of 88 or 89 in 1892 (The Times 12 July 1892), leaving effects worth £2147, with probate granted to Albert Ludovici, artist. Charles Edward Clifford (qv) took over his business as a picture restorer in 1877.

Picture restoration work: As early as 1844 Watson was advertising his services as a restorer, ‘To amateurs and collectors of old pictures – Mr Watson of 201, Piccadilly, begs to inform the Nobility and Gentry that he continues to Restore Old Paintings (however much defaced), upon the most approved and scientific principles, without resorting to that kind of quackery so commonly practiced by persons unacquainted with works of Art.’ (The Art-Union February 1844 p.50). Watson published a promotional pamphlet, A few observations on picture cleaning and restoring, 1863 (copy in V&A National Art Library, 40.B Box II); he continued to offer a pamphlet of this kind to prospective clients.

As Façon Watson, artist and picture restorer, he advertised that he restored all works of art, including pictures on copper ‘that are Blistered and Peeling Away’, works on paper (‘crayon drawings carefully restored… Drawings mounted, restored and framed. Engravings restored, however much Stained or Spotted with Mildew’), and miniatures on ivory (‘imperceptibly joined, if broken’) (The Artists’ Directory 1875, p.190; see also pp.148-9). In the same advertisement, he claimed, ‘None but Practical Artists, who have been educated in the difficult, scientific, and important Art of Picture Restoration should be entrusted with valuable Works of Art to restore.’

Watson lined and varnished Thomas Lawrence’s full-length, The Hon. Mrs Storer, in 1876, according to an inscription on the lining canvas (Museo del Prado, Madrid, see David Wilson, ‘Art, inheritance, law and attribution: The rediscovered portrait of Earl Fitzwilliam by Sir Joshua Reynolds’, British Art Journal, vol. 13, no.3, winter 2012/13, p. 43, fig. 19).

Framing work: Watson also sold picture frames. In 1843 E.F. Watson advertised, as agent to the Art Union of London, a 'Characteristic Frame expressly for the Engravings given to its members' (The Art-Union June 1843 p.133). He offered imitation ormolu frames in carved and gilt wood, 'enclosed in a highly-polished rosewood case, faced with plate glass, and backed with velvet' (November 1844 p.321); these cost one-fifth the price of ormolu frames. In the same advertisement he referred to paintings added to his Picture Gallery. Later, he was offering ‘Carved Florentine and other Frames in great variety’ (The Artists’ Directory 1875, p.190).

For abbreviations, see Resources and bibliography.

*Westfield Webb, St Martin’s Lane, London by 1763-1772 or later. Portrait, flower and landscape painter and picture restorer.

Westfield Webb (c.1704?-1772 or later), son of Thomas Webb of Holborn, gentleman, was apprenticed to Richard Abbott, a Painter Stainer, on 6 January 1720, for a premium of £25 (Webb 2003 p.68). He is not known to have married or to have had children so it is here assumed that he can be identified with the Westfield Webb known to have been active in the 1760s and early 1770s. He was listed as a painter at Mr Turner’s, St Martin’s Lane, in 1763 (Mortimer's Universal Directory).

On 24 March 1762, Westfield Webb submitted a bill to the Duke of Marlborough for £21 for picture cleaning, including two paintings by Luca Giordano of Actaeon and Diana at £7.7s each (British Library, Add. MS 61678, f.75, Blenheim papers).

Webb exhibited at the Society of Artists in 1762 a whole-length portrait of Miss Brent, a celebrated singer. He continued to exhibit in some years until 1772. His full-length portrait of Matthew Ridley is in the Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle-upon-Tyne (repr. BBC - Your Paintings - Matthew Ridley).

His early biographer, Edward Edwards, described him as a painter of portraits, who resided chiefly in St Martin's Lane, and whose ‘works are various in their subjects, sometimes landscapes, at other times flowers, but in neither did he discover much of the master; and his portraits are of that rank, which seldom long survive their originals’ (Edward Edwards, Anecdotes of painters, who have resided or been born in England, 1808, p.39).

Added March 2019
Anthony Werner (1911-2006). Research Chemist, National Gallery, 1948-54; Principal Scientific Officer, British Museum Research Laboratory, 1954-59; Keeper, British Museum Research Laboratory, 1959-75; Professor of chemistry to the Royal Academy, 1962-75.

Alfred Emil Anthony Werner, known as Tony Werner, falls outside the time frame of this online resource, but see Obituary: Dr A E A Werner | International Institute for Conservation by Andrew Oddy.

Wignal, see Parry Walton

*William D. Wilkerson 1907-1933, William Wilkerson & Sons Ltd 1934-1977.At12 Poland St, Oxford St, London 1907-1937, 10A Poland St 1938-1951, 64 Blandford St, W1 1952-1970, 136 Marylebone Road, NW1 1971-1977. Print seller and picture framemaker, print restorer.

William Daniel Wilkerson (c.1867-1936) was in business as a picture framemaker by 1907, trading as successor to the carver and gilder, Hugh Mackintosh. Although generally known as Wilkerson, he was apparently born Wilkinson in the Marylebone district in 1867 and was recorded as such in the 1901 census and in London directories from 1907 to 1910. He perhaps decided to use the name Wilkerson to distinguish himself from another framemaker who was trading as William Wilkinson from 61 Fulham Road.

As William Daniel Wilkerson he married Eleanor Bertha Taylor in the Westminster district in 1890. In census records he can be found in 1891 and 1901 at 20 Great Chapel St, Westminster, variously as a framemaker or picture framemaker and a worker, born Marylebone, with his wife variously listed as Eleanor or Bertha. They remained at 20 Great Chapel St until at least 1903. By the time of the 1911 census Wilkerson was living at 23 Rutland St, Hampstead Road, where he was recorded as a print restorer and worker, with his wife and four children including a son Alfred, age 17, working with him, and another son William, age 5.

Wilkerson advertised in 1910 as successor to Hugh Mackintosh, established 41 years, describing himself as ‘Restorer of old, varnished, coloured and plain prints, oil paintings and water-colours.’ (The Year’s Art, 1910). In the 1914 London directory, he described print restoration as a speciality, and the business continued to do so until as late as 1947.

William Daniel Wilkerson of 12 Poland St died age 69 in 1936, leaving effects of £459, with probate granted to his sons, Alfred George Wilkerson (1894-1970?) and William Arthur Wilkerson (1906-52?), picture framemakers. The business would appear to have been carried on by his sons. William Arthur Wilkerson may be the individual who died in 1952 in Upper Holloway, leaving effects worth £1989 with probate granted to his widow, Ivy Alice. Alfred George Wilkerson may be the individual who died in Eastbourne, age 76, in 1970. In 1952, apparently coinciding with the death of William Arthur Wilkinson, the business moved to 64 Blandford St and focused on picture framemaking, rather than print restoration. The business continued to be listed in directories until 1977.

Restoration work: Wilkerson claimed print restoration as a speciality. His headed invoice paper in the late 1920s from 12 Poland St, W1, as established over half a century, gives an idea of the range of his business as a print restorer and framemaker, claiming as specialties, ‘Old Varnished Prints, Colored and Plain, Restored. Country Collections Cleaned at Clients own residence if desired’, and ‘Water Color Drawings, Mezzotints, Aquatints, Etchings, Colored Stipple Engravings etc., restored. Paintings cleaned, lined and restored. Old frames repaired and re-gilt. Large collection of old colored Sporting and Other Prints always in stock.’ (example, Hamilton Kerr Institute, Roberson Archive, box file, information from Sally Woodcock, September 2012).

One of Wilkerson’s clients was the artists’ suppliers, Roberson & Co (see British artists' suppliers on this website). From his invoices, his work for Roberson’s included in 1926 cleaning a ‘colored Artist Proof on Vellum’ for 10s, in 1927 taking off wood and restoring a coloured print for £1, taking a watercolour off an old mount, slightly cleaning, and making new lined mount to pattern with English gilt border, restretching drawing, and refitting for £1.10s and cleaning a portrait mezzotint for 9s.6d, and in 1928 cleaning and mounting a coloured print, Venus, for 10s (Roberson Archive, box file).

William Frederick Yeames’swatercolour, View near Cotehele, Cornwall, 1868 (British Museum, 2012,7003.1) bears Wilkerson’s printed label from 12 Poland St, perhaps dating to the 1900s or 1910s.

*H. Williamson & H. Harrison by 1939-1946, not listed 1947-1949, 1950-1977, H. Harrison & Son 1978 to date. At 16 Cleveland Mews, Fitzroy Square, London by 1939-1946, 9 Windmill St 1950-1957, 13 Mason’s Yard, SW1 1958-1976, 22 Duncan Terrace, Islington, N1 1977-1984, Cheddington Airfield, Herts c.1984-c.2001, 5 Wellcroft Road, Ivinghoe, nr Leighton Buzzard, LU7 9EF, 2001 onwards. Picture liners and panel workers.

The business described itself as successors to Reeve & Davis (qv), according to its old letterhead (see below). The following account is partly based on information kindly supplied by Michael Harrison, November 2013.

Harry Williamson and Herbert Harrison were certainly in partnership at 16 Cleveland Mews from 1939 to 1946, according to entries in the London Post Office directory. In one form or another this partnership may date to 1933 when Mrs Davis, widow of Edward Davis, retired and is said to have handed the business to Williamson and Harrison. According to the history on the business’s website, Walter ‘Ginger’ Harrison joined Edward Davis as a picture liner after the death of John George Reeve in 1928, and it was he who brought his brother, Herbert Harrison, into the business. A fire destroyed the workshop at 16 Cleveland Mews in about 1949, according to the website history, leading to the relocation of the business to Windmill St, where it is recorded in 1950.

The primary focus of this online resource is on the years before 1950 but the subsequent history of the business is summarised here, using information from the business’s website. Herbert’s brother, Leslie Harrison, worked in the business, 1949-51, but left to set up independently as a picture liner, in which capacity he was recorded in London trade directories from 1962 until 1977. He was replaced by Frederick Belton. It was in 1956 that Herbert’s son, also Herbert but known as Bert, started at the age of 14 on leaving school. In the late 1950s Belton left to set up independently as a picture liner and was replaced by John Coombes. Of the two founders, Harry Williamson died in the early 1970s and Herbert Harrison in 1979, by which time the business was trading as H. Harrison & Son. It moved successively to Islington, Cheddington and Ivinghoe where it is now based. Since 2012 it has been managed by Bert Harrison’s son, Michael.

Restoration work: H. Williamson & H. Harrison’s letterhead from 16 Cleveland Mews, apparently dating to between 1933 and 1949, describes the business as ‘Specialists in picture lining, panel work & transferring’. Services offered included ‘Old panels repaired & cradled’, ‘Pictures cleaned, lined, restored & varnished’, ‘Modern pictures varnished for exhibition’ and ‘Pictures transferred from canvas & panels’ and these services are still offered on the business’s letterhead today, with a focus on picture lining.

Little information is available on Williamson & Harrison’s clients except that they undertook lining work for the Tate Gallery, 1950-3, including J.M.W. Turner’s Southern Landscape (N05506) and James Ward’s The Deer Stealer in 1950, Augustus John’s Galway on three huge canvases, which posed particular problems on account of their size in 1950-1, and Vicat Cole’s The Pool of London and George Jones’s Cawnpore: the Passage of the Ganges in 1953 (Tate Archive, TG 18/1/1/1).

Added March 2015
David Winfield
(1929-2013). Wall paintings conservator; first Surveyor of Conservation at the National Trust, from 1981.

Outside the time frame of this online resource, but see obituary by Antony Eastmond in National Trust Arts/ Buildings / Collections Bulletin, Autumn 2004, p.5.

Added March 2019
Jack Coburn Witherop (1906-84), born Joseph Witherup. Artist and picture restorer for the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool.

Outside the time frame of this online resource, but see Walker Art Gallery above.

John Woodburn from 1782?,1786, 1797-1811, Allen Woodburn 1813,1818 (as a gilder), Messrs Woodburn, also known as Woodburn brothers 1817-1836, Samuel Woodburn 1826-1827, Samuel & Allen Woodburn 1836-1853. At Broad St, parish of St James Piccadilly, London 1782-1786, 42 Dean St 1790-1792, St Martin's Lane 1797, 112 St Martin's Lane 1799-1853. Picture and old master drawing dealers, print dealers and publishers, picture framemakers, occasional picture restorers.

See British picture framemakers on this website.

*Henry Woolcot, 26 Little St Andrew St, Upper St Martin's Lane, London 1851-1855, Werrington St, St Pancras 1861, 21 Cleaver St, Lambeth 1871, 33 Betterton St, Drury Lane, WC 1889-1891, 12 Stanhope St, Clare Market, WC 1892. Picture framemaker and trade picture liner.

Henry Woolcot (c.1823/5-1898?) has not been traced in baptismal records but his birth can be dated to about 1823-5 from census entries. He married Mary Ann Butler in the St George Hanover Square district in 1850. She died in 1869 and he remarried in 1872, to Anne Rebecca Palmer in the Westminster district.

In census records he can be found in 1841 in Great Newport St in the household of the picture restorer, John Adams, apparently as an apprentice, in 1851 at 26 Little St Andrew St as a picture liner, with his wife Mary Ann, in 1861 in Werrington St, St Pancras as a picture liner, age 36, with his wife Mary Ann and six children, and in 1871 at 21 Cleaver St, Lambeth, as a picture liner, age 48, born St Martin’s, by now a widower, with five children. In subsequent censuses he can be found in 1881 at 151 Drury Lane as a framemaker, age 58, with his second wife, Annie, age 34, and three daughters, and in 1891 at 33 Betterton St as a picture liner, age 65, with two children.

He is not listed in London trade directories except in 1855, when described as a picture framemaker, and for a few years around 1890. He is possibly the individual who died in the Wandsworth district, age 77 in 1898.

It is possible that Roberson & Co may have used his services for lining pictures, since his trade circular can be found in one of their ledgers. He used this circular as H. Woolcot, Picture Liner to the Trade, No. 26 Little St Andrew Street, Upper St Martin's Lane, to advertise his prices for picture lining, ranging from £2.7s for a whole length with stretcher, 16s for a half length with double bar, 14s with single bar to 3s if less than 18x14ins (prices without stretchers are written in by hand). Woolcot hoped that ‘by continuing a system of Punctuality, Moderation of Charge, and a close personal attention to anything he may be entrusted with, he may merit your future support and patronage’. He offered various services: ‘Collections of Paintings lined (whether required to be done on the owners premises) either in town or country. … Panel pictures backed and flattened, and transferred on canvas if required. Pictures taken from walls and transferred to canvas. Packing Cases made and Pictures packed, on the shortest notice’ (Hamilton Kerr Institute, Roberson Archive, HKI MS 801B-1993, information from Sally Woodcock, February 2012).

Added March 2016, extended January 2017
Harry Woolford, 3 East Broughton Road, Edinburgh 1922-1928, 42 Frederick St1929-1930, 24 York Place 1934, 5 Randolph Place 1938-1939. Picture restorer, National Galleries of Scotland, and artist.

Harry Halkerston Russell Woolford (1905-99) was picture restorer for many years at the National Galleries of Scotland and became the institution’s first Chief Restorer. Woolford was born in Edinburgh on 23 May 1905, and died there on 29 August 1999 (John Dick, obituary, see Sources below). He trained as an artist and exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy, 1922-39, and elsewhere. For the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, he painted a portrait, James IV with Falcon, in 1955 (see BBC - Your Paintings). He was the nephew of the landscape painter, Charles Halkerston Woolford (1864-1934).

John Dick, his successor at the National Galleries, characterised Woolford in an obituary as ‘a traditionalist in practice and in his materials’. He identified Woolford’s first major task as the supervision of the collections which were evacuated during the Second World War to large country houses in the Borders. Woolford was appointed a technical officer in late 1940 to carry out restoration work for both the National Gallery and the Portrait Gallery, initially being paid £4 a week, work which was done in an attic space of the Portrait Gallery (Duncan Thomson, A History of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, 2011, pp.38-9). The post of restorer at the National Gallery of Scotland was established on a temporary basis after the war and combined with that of Keeper until in 1949 Woolford was given the title Chief Restorer.

On his retirement in 1970, he was the subject of a film, The Restoration of a Painting, demonstrating the basic processes used in cleaning and restoring oil paintings on canvas (see http://explore.bfi.org.uk/4ce2b7613d5e9).

Conservation work: As well as working for the National Galleries of Scotland, Woolford had a ‘select private practice with many of the important Scottish family collections’, according to Dick. His notebooks, providing information on his work from 1933 to the mid-1960s, were given to the National Galleries of Scotland's conservation department in February 2012 by Woolford’s daughter, through the good offices of Cooper Hay and Stephen Lloyd (ref: NGSC A1/1-11). For fuller details, see Sources below.

Woolford’s career as a restorer falls into three phases, before, during and after the Second World War, as far as can be judged from a rapid survey of his archive. On occasion, in noting the time worked on a picture, he divides it between himself and two assistants, Bruce and, most frequently, Buchanan.

Before the war, most of Woolford’s work was for private clients and ranged from limited attention to a single picture to significant restoration to several pictures (see A1/3). The following is a partial listing, focusing on the nobility and country house owners on the one hand and institutions on the other, to the exclusion of many private individuals. The detailed pattern of his work requires further study.

Clients broadly from the nobility and country gentry include the Duke of Atholl, Blair Castle (1937, 1939-40), Duchess of Buccleuch (1934), Duke of Montrose (1933), Duke of Roxburghe (1933), Marquis of Clydesdale (1938-9), Marquis of Lothian (1933, full length portrait of William 2nd Marquis of Lothian, ‘line, level spider web cracks & revarnish, 24 hours work), Countess of Buckinghamshire (1935), Earl of Dalhousie (1934, 1938-9), Earl of Elgin (1934, 1937), Countess of Glasgow (1936), Earl of Glasgow (1939), Earl of Haddington, Mellerstain (1935, 1938), Earl of Home (1937-9), Earl of Leven & Melville (1938), Earl of Lisburne (1935-7), Earl of Mar & Kellie (1934-8), Earl of Minto, Minto House (1933, ‘Send men to Minto House to slightly restore & touch up pictures’, 1938, 1940), Earl of Rosebery, Dalmeny House (1935, 1937), Earl of Southesk (1939), Earl of Stair (1939), Countess of Strathmore (1935), Viscount Weir, Eastwood Park (1938), Lord Clinton (1937-8), Lord Elphinstone, Musselburgh (1938), Lord Forbes, Castle Forbes (1935, 1939), Lady Hope (1933), Lord Linlithgow (1936), Sir Aymer Maxwell (1937-8), Sir John Stirling Maxwell Bt (1937, 1939), Capt. A.M.F. Fletcher of Saltoun (1938), Capt. Wemyss, Wemyss Castle (1938-9), Fyvie Castle (1935), Hamilton estate office (1935, seven portraits) and Seafield estate office, Cullen (1937).

Institutional, professional and commercial clients in or near Edinburgh include the Bank of Scotland (1933, 1938), Church of Scotland (1933, 1936), City Architect’s Department (1935, 1937, 1940), Edinburgh Academy (1936), Edinburgh Public Library (1936), Hon. Company of Edinburgh Golfers, Muirfield (1936), John Henry Lorimer (1936), National Bible Society of Scotland (1938), Office of Works (1934, varnishing a portrait of King George V at Holyrood, 1936, 1938), Royal College of Physicians (1936), Royal College of Surgeons (1934), Royal High School (1939), Royal Society of Edinburgh (1937), St Mary’s Cathedral (1936), Scottish Conservative Club (1935), Scottish Military & Naval Museum (1934, 1936), Society of Writers to the Signet (1934) and Trinity House, Kirkgate, Leith (1936). Institutional and commercial clients elsewhere include Aberdeen Art Gallery (1939), Glasgow University (1933), T. & R. Annan, Glasgow (1934-38), Paisley Art Institute (1936) and St Andrews University (1936).

In addition, Woolford treated various works for the Scottish National Gallery and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. For example, for the National Gallery in 1933 David Martin’s Lady Steuart of Allanton (‘line, equalize varnish & revarnish’, 4½ hours work) and William Allan’s The Black Dwarf (‘remove repaints, touch in cracks’, 8 hours), in 1935 eleven pictures among which Jacopo Tintoretto’s Portrait of a Bearded Man (line & restore, 4 hours), in 1936 eight pictures including J.T. Seton’s William Fullerton of Carstairs and Capt. Ninian Lowis (double lined, 13 hours), in 1937 four pictures, in 1938 five pictures and in 1938 twelve pictures including Henry Raeburn’s Mrs Scott Moncrieff (cleaned and restored, 12 hours). For the Portrait Gallery, among other pictures, in 1933 the Van Dyck studio/copy full-lengths, King Charles I and Queen Henrietta Maria (remove varnish and revarnish) and in 1934 Henry Raeburn’s Niel Gow (line, surface clean and varnish, 5 hours).

During the war, Woolford’s private practice appears to have come to a halt. His work focused on the national collection and he has left exemplary reports, picture by picture, occasionally with photographs attached (A1/4). He usually specifies the solvent mix, such as 50 Toluene: 50 Meth or Acetone 50: Turps 50. He also specifies the source of his varnish including mastic and copal from Winsor & Newton, but fairly early on his mastic is indicated as ‘own make’. There are further important details to extract from this wartime record.

A few examples are quoted here of works he treated. For the National Gallery, in 1941 Bernardo Castello’s Adoration of the Shepherds (cleaned using Acetone 50: Turps 50, and retouched, cradle replaced [the picture was then on panel], varnished with mastic and finished with damar). In 1942 Giovanni Battista Tiepolo’s sketch, The Meeting of Anthony and Cleopatra (obscured and yellow varnish removed using Toluene 50: Meths 50 to reveal paint in good condition except a few edge blemishes; work fumigated with thymol; old lining loose and removed to reveal inscriptions and markings on reverse; ‘normal relining procedure’, using wax 60: resin 40 plus Venice for turpentine; revarnished with own make mastic and finished with Winsor & Newton copal).

For the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, in 1942 Mather Brown’s unlined Alexander Wedderburn, Earl of Rosslyn (relined, slightly cleaned, varnished with own make mastic and finished with Winsor & Newton copal) and in 1943 Alphonse Legros’s unlined Thomas Carlyle (‘laid down on new canvas’, restretched on own stretcher, loose paint fixed, revarnished).

After the war, Woolford continued to work extensively for the National Galleries of Scotland and was appointed chief restorer in 1949, at which point he seems to have given up private work. The entries in his record of work for the Galleries, 1948-66 (A1/6), are relatively brief, especially from 1954, and it is probable that his full records for this period survive in individual picture files. For the National Gallery, he treated John Constable’s Vale of Dedham in 1949, John Wilson’s A Ferry Boat on the Maas in 1950, Raeburn’s Thomas Kennedy of Dunure in 1956 and Andrew Geddes’s Hagar in 1960, to quote just four examples. For the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, George Romney’s John McArthur in 1957.

According to John Dick’s obituary, Woolford also worked on Gainsborough’s Mrs Graham, Velazquez’s Old Woman cooking Eggs, Claude’s Apollo and the Muses, Bassano’s Adoration of the Kings and, in situ on account of its size, Tiepolo’s Finding of Moses, a picture which had been lined a century before by James Walker (qv). For the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, as identified by Dick, Woolford cleaned Allan Ramsay’s Sir Peter Halkett Wedderburn, Henry Raeburn’s Lt-Col. Lyon and the Rev. Robert Walker, and David Wilkie’s Pitlessie Fair.

Two of Woolford's discoveries during conservation were published, the first by Benedict Nicholson, ‘An Unknown Terbrugghen’ (Burlington Magazine, vol.95, 1953, pp. 52-4) and the second by Martin Kemp, ‘A Date for Chardin’s “Lady taking Tea”’ (Burlington Magazine, vol. 120, 1978, pp. 22-5).

In addition, Woolford undertook some private work, 1944-51 (see A1/3). Clients categorized here as the nobility and country gentry include the Duke of Hamilton (1947), Duchess of Montrose (1947), Duke of Roxburghe (1948), Marchioness of Ailsa, Culzean Castle (1944-5, 1948-9), Marquis of Linlithgow (1946), Marquis of Tweedale, Yester (1950), Earl of Eglinton (1949), Earl of Elgin (1949), Earl of Ellesmere (1947), Earl of Haddington (1950), Earl of Leven & Melville (1950-1), Earl of Marchmont (1947), Countess of Moray (1947), Earl of Moray (1948, 1950), Countess of Rosebery (1950), Earl of Wemyss (1950-1), Lady Babington (1944-8), Lady Binning (1949), Lady Blake, Newhailes House (1946), Lady Victoria Wemyss, Wemyss Castle (1945, pictures sent up from Welbeck Abbey) and Mrs Stirling of Keir (1947, 1951).

Institutional, professional and commercial clients in Edinburgh include Aitken Dott & Son (c.1945), Doig, Wilson & Wheatley (1944-51, extensive work), Edinburgh Corporation (1946), Faculty of Advocates (1949), St Mary’s Cathedral (1946, murals by Phoebe Traquair in song school), Prof. Talbot Rice (1946, Valdes’s Adoration), and elsewhere, Glasgow School of Art (1946) and St Andrews University (1945-6).

Sources: John Dick, obituary (The Scotsman 11 September 1999, accessed online through Factiva). Stephen Lloyd, introduction to Henry Raeburn: Context, Reception and Reputation, ed. V. Coltman and S. Lloyd, 2012, p.20. Lloyd kindly drew my attention to Woolford’s archive (National Galleries of Scotland, NGSC A1/1-11). It consists of four foolscap lined manuscript notebooks recording Woolford’s work in detail, sometimes very fully, 1933-c.1960 (A1/3-6), a manuscript index of artists with a few interesting entries (A1/2), four small ring binders containing secondary material on Scottish artists (A1/7-10), a volume of newspaper cuttings on pictures and restoration, 1922-49 (A1/11) and an 1883 exhibition catalogue (A1/1). With thanks to Stephen Lloyd for reviewing this entry.

*Renate Woudhuysen-Keller (1944-2012). Teacher and painting conservator, Hamilton Kerr Institute, Cambridge.

Outside the scope of this online resource, but see obituary by Rupert Featherstone, The Picture Restorer, no.41, autumn 2012, p.6. See also Lucy Wrapson, Jenny Rose, Rose Miller, Spike Bucklow (eds), In Artists' Footsteps: The Reconstruction of Pigments and Paintings, 2012, published in celebration of her work.

Joseph Wright of Derby, Derby 1753-1756, 1757-1768 (visiting Newark, Lincoln, Boston, Retford and Doncaster), Liverpool 1768-1771 (visiting Lichfield and Derby), Derby 1772-1773, Italy 1773-1775, Bath 1775-1777, St Helen’s House, Derby 1777-1793, 26 Queen St, Derby 1793-1797.Artist and occasional picture restorer.

Joseph Wright (1734-97) is known for his landscape paintings, portraits and night scenes, rather than as a picture restorer. However, like many artists he would sometimes restore pictures for favoured patrons, or arrange for their restoration. Such services often go undocumented but in Wright’s case, his account book provides an insight into his picture restoration work on three occasions. Wright also used this account book to record practical information on lining pictures in his note, To Line a Picture (see Barker 2009 p.49). 

Wright cleaned and repainted three pictures for Sir Robert Wilmot, apparently subcontracting the job of repairing the priming of a half length portrait to a Mr Roe for 12s (see Barker 2009 p.10). At Elvaston, Derbyshire, for Lord Harrington, perhaps in about 1780, he undertook work to the value of about £8.18s, including cleaning a full-length picture, providing a new straining frame and lining a picture of King Charles, cleaning and repairing two landscapes and gilding the frames and cleaning and retouching an historical picture by Paulo Veronese for 10s (Barker 2009 pp.42-3). He received £3.3s in April 1789 from a Mr Fox for repairing three pictures for Lord Melbourne (Barker 2009 p.37).

Sources: Wright’s account book (National Portrait Gallery), see Elizabeth E. Barker, ‘Documents relating to Joseph Wright of Derby (1734-97)’, Walpole Society, vol.71, 2009; see also Rica Jones, 'Notes for Conservators on Wright of Derby's Technique and Studio Practice', The Conservator, no.15, 1991, pp.19-20.

Stephen Wright (d.1780), Master Mason to the Board of Works, see William Kent and William Oram.

James Wyatt 1806-1828 or later, James Wyatt & Son by 1834-1853, James Wyatt junr 1853-1882. At 115 High St, Oxford 1806-1882. Printsellers and publishers, carvers and gilders, picture and looking glass framemakers, picture restorers.

See British picture framemakers on this website. See also the history of conservation at the Ashmolean Museum

Found a mistake? Have some extra information? Please contact Jacob Simon at [email protected].

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