European drawings from the 1300s to the late 1800s, or Old Master drawings, were handled by artists and later by collectors.With this handling—along with poor storage and display conditions—they show the passage of time, often with distracting damage. This exhibition of thirty drawings illustrates the important role paper conservators play in reducing the effects of age and wear with treatments such as filling losses, reducing stains and mold, and repairing tears. It also reveals the mysteries conservators discover, including unknown drawings hidden beneath mounts or watermarks that help determine the date of the paper.
Present-day paper conservation differs from restoration practice of earlier centuries; in general, today's conservators work in subtler, less invasive ways, using methods that are reversible. Their respect for the original intent of the artist allows viewers to focus on the beauty of the design—not the damage.
Watch a video of a Getty conservator at work.