Object of the Month: July 2021

Published: 1 July 2021

Chosen by

Heather, Collections

Collection

Fine Art

Object Name

'Portrait of Dr Shaw, M.D.' by an unknown artist

Portrait of Dr Shaw, M.D. after conservation
Portrait of Dr Shaw, M.D. after conservation

This is a portrait of Dr George Shaw who, in 1835, set up the Leicester Literary and Philosophical Society, whose main initial objectives were to form a Museum. This led, in 1849 to Leicester Museum & Art Gallery opening as one of the first public museums in the country, with the original building being designed by Joseph Hansom, designer of the hansom cab.

This portrait came into the collection in 1966 and was already in poor condition. As can be seen from the 'before and after' image, there were numerous tears and the surface was darkened and dirty.

The painting before, and after conservation work.
The painting before, and after conservation work.

Restored to its former glory

Thanks to a donation from John A Shaw Pollard M.A., L.D.S, a descendant of Dr Shaws, we have been able to get the portrait conserved and restored and it has recently been returned and is on display, for the first time, in the Victorian Art Gallery at Leicester Museum & Art Gallery.

The conservation procedure was a complex process requiring:

  • unframing the work
  • studying the damage to better understand the extent of it
  • mending the tears by a process that included re-aligning the threads of the canvas, gluing the edges, filling and retouching of missing areas of paint
  • The aged, discoloured varnish was removed and the whole re-varnished to reveal the original colours

The finished painting shows a huge improvement – comparing before and after images shows the difference the work has made to the visual and physical aspects of the work.

Read our story on the life of Dr Shaw and the history of this painting.