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Conservation - Thomas Millie Dow

Preserving the paintings of a Glasgow Boy by Vanessa Charles

The Conservation Unit in the University Library has been working on four paintings by the Fife born artist and Glasgow Boy, Thomas Millie Dow.

Dow studied painting in Paris before moving to Glasgow in 1880. He became associated with the celebrated 'Glasgow Boys', a loose knit group of approximately twenty innovative painters working at the end of the nineteenth century. The paintings have been on exhibition at a retrospective of Dow's work at Kirkcaldy Museum and Gallery. photo of art work by Thomas Millie Dow

Paper conservators at the university were asked to examine and treat the paintings before they were displayed, as a large proportion of the works selected for exhibition had been found in private homes. Unlike the works of art stored under controlled conditions by galleries and museums, privately owned pieces often suffer damage due to neglect. Clients told the conservators at the unit some depressing stories. In one case, a painting had been stored for years under the owner's bed. Fortunately, the paintings by Thomas Millie Dow had been treated with a little more care. However, it was still necessary to remove the works of art from their frames in order to clean them, and to replace the deteriorating mounts. Some had been drawn in pastel, an extremely fragile medium. Removing them from their frames was a delicate operation. If the paintings had been handled in the wrong way, the results could have been disastrous.

Conservators are often required to reverse the damage caused by poor quality artists' materials, or damaging framing methods. Often, it was the case that artists such as Thomas Millie Dow simply did not have the knowledge about the ageing characteristics of the materials they worked with. In response to this, the conservators at the unit give plenty of advice to modern-day artists, and continue to give talks and seminars on a variety of topics related to conservation. Although conservators know that there will always be work for them to do, it is hoped that advice given to artists now will insure a brighter future for their creations.

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