top of page
The Art of Conservation

The Art of Conservation


This fascinating volume presents a wide-ranging overview of one of the lesser known yet fundamental disciplines of Art History: conservation. What happens when art ages? By bringing together some of the leading experts in the field, the essays chart a journey through the theoretical, aesthetic and technical debates surrounding the conservation of Old Masters.


The problem of how to look after paintings as they grow old is a historically complex one. Should they be ‘restored’ to their original glory, or should the patina of time be acknowledged? What is to be done with damp and dirt, with rotten panels and yellowing varnishes? The development of conservation is profoundly entwined with the development of Art History itself, as both deal in the interpretation of the past and its preservation for the future. The seventeen essays collected by editors Jane Martineau and David Bomford, which originally appeared in The Burlington Magazine, explore how these questions have been answered from the mid-sixteenth century to the present day.


Masterpieces like Jan and Hubert van Eyck’s Ghent Altarpiece or Rembrandt’s Night Watch have been treated and mis-treated many times in their long lives. By the nineteenth century, the growing knowledge of the techniques employed by the old masters had a profound influence on the treatments applied to their works. In the same period, the birth of national galleries as public institutions entrusted with the collective heritage led to the need to preserve large numbers of paintings and establish conservation departments rooted in scientific research. By the mid-twentieth century, the materials and techniques of painting were utterly transformed, demanding fresh approaches to their preservation.


A discipline that sits uniquely at the crossroads of art, science, philosophy and technology, modern conservation is the result of an ongoing collaboration between conservators, scientists and art historians following rigorous ethical standards and training programmes.

  • Edited by Jane Martineau and David Bomford

    Published by The Burlington Press
    Distributed by Paul Holberton Publishing

    Hardback, 245 x 170 mm
    504 pp., 170 illustrations
    ISBN: 978-1-916237-84-1

  • About the Burlington Press

    The Burlington Magazine, the world’s most respected monthly journal of art history, launched its own book imprint in 2019 to publish original research on art of every type and all periods.

  • About the authors

    David Bomford is a Trustee of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, and was formerly Senior Conservator, National Gallery London; Associate Director, J. Paul Getty Museum; and Head of European Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston


    Jane Martineau worked for many years as Editor and Curator in the Exhibitions Office of the Royal Academy of Arts, London, and from 2003 to 2017 as an Editor at The Burlington Magazine



    Mark Aronson, Ángel Aterido, Susanna Avery-Quash, Morwenna Blewett, David Bomford, Giorgio Bonsanti, Marco Ciatti, Elizabeth Darrow, Hélène Dubois, Esther van Duijn, Bradford A. Epley, Jan Piet Filedt Kok, Ella Hendriks, Joyce Hill Stoner, Ulrike Kern, Jo Kirby, Mireille te Marvelde, Ann Massing, Ian McClure, Irma Passeri, Zahira Véliz Bomford

bottom of page