Art Restoration of Family Portraits Requires Expert Help

I’m sure you’ll agree that the portrait on the left, a pioneer ancestor’s portrait that was loaned to a community celebration and fell off an easel, requires special skills to bring the look in her eyes back to the original “look” that the family loves. In fact, there are many living ancestors of this lady from the 1890s that have the exact same “look” and expressions as she does! Even as massive as this damage is in the most critical and sensitive spot on the portrait, this damage was carefully and critically restored to not be at all detectable. Family received back their pioneer portrait, still a pioneer portrait with only the damaged area being “inpainted” or retouched. In other words, the original portrait was returned to them looking perfect and was not repainted!

Unfortunately, the portrait on the right was “restored” by an artist friend “who normally does nice paintings!” So, it got completely repainted! The background isn’t real (part of the original portrait) and he was wearing a regular long tie, not a bow tie!! All the colors are different from the original. The much beloved father of the client is hardly recognizable and there is going to be a family hysterical upset if this portrait isn’t returned to the original father they love and know.

The situations of these two portraits teaches you an important lesson that I am constantly reinforcing with people I meet: people see the work our art conservation lab does and they remark, “Wow you are such a great artist” or something similar. I always lovingly instruct them that there is nothing creative about what we do. We are NOT artists!! After my bachelors degree, it was the opportunity to work with science to bring about the preservation and restoration of art that drew me to this profession in 1975.

In fact, no one in our fine art conservation laboratory produces artwork or earns any money by making art. My experience is that artists are not detailed enough, not focused enough, and not respectful enough to preserve and protect the original artwork of somebody else. It happens often that they put “their twist” on the restoration work, “improve” the parts they don’t like and think that by making it look better, its restored… with little thought or knowledge about long term preservation. The headlines of the artist-grandmother who restored the picture of Christ for the Spanish church and whose restored painting was renamed “Behold, The Monkey!” may come to mind.

Restoration is not repainting original artworkThough it looks like the original cherub, the color and antique look is gone.

So, after a work of art has been repainted or touched up badly, can it be recouped or saved or re-restored!?” A painful question. Well, yes… but the price, at this point for proper, safe art conservation treatments has just skyrocketed; In this case we charge, of course, for the time and effort to take off any previous bungled restorations. You pay for undoing the sins of the previous “restorer,” and depending on the sensitivity or the underlying original work vs. the quality of the materials the previous “restorer” used, that may render that job quite difficult and expensive. And then once cleaned off, we would start on the proper treatments required.

A Happy Testimonial

Art conservation – restoration questions?

Call Scott M. Haskins or Virginia Panizzon,

Veteran Art Conservators – 805 564 3438

Art restoration of a family portrait DOES NOT involve repainting! Professional art conservation in Los Angeles, Orange County, Santa Barbara County, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City. @ScottMHaskins @ArtRestoration @FineArtConservationLab @Paintingrestoration @FamilyHistory @Geneaology

What can you do at home?

See videos on YouTube Channel PreservationCoach:

“I can do it for you for less.” Short video of how all photos, scrapbooks, documents, family history AND THE BACKUP COPIES were lost in a house fire. Leave a comment!

Search in the side bar of this blog

for “family portrait” for other examples.

Vandalism is unfortunately an issue.

An enraged family member or fiancé that wants to hurt the family can reach out to attack the ancestor. We’ve seen it many times.

About Scott M. Haskins

Scott Haskins has been in professional art conservation since 1975, specializing in the conservation/restoration of easel paintings, murals and art on paper. FACL, Inc. is known nationally for doing A+ work no matter the size or difficulty of the project. We are happy to do a quick cleaning on a family heirloom. Our client list and resume is also full of very satisfied clients of large, difficult/complicated projects at remote locations. Excellent services are also available as an Expert Witness/Legal Testimony in art related matters. Consultation on art related projects occur regularly including extensive insurance evaluations for insured or insurer. Services are offered worldwide. Scott M. Haskins is also author of the "Save Your Stuff" series, educational information, materials and supplies to help people protect and save their treasured family heirlooms and collectibles at home and office. He can be reached at 805 564 3438. Video and written testimonials at
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