Retro: Sheffield restorers work on art of Waterloo

Sheffield-based conservators Lucy Critchlow and Eeva Kukkonen working on paintings about the Battle of Waterloo painted by Ernest Crofts. One is on show at the Graves Gallery, Sheffield and both belong to Museums Sheffield

Sheffield-based conservators Lucy Critchlow and Eeva Kukkonen working on paintings about the Battle of Waterloo painted by Ernest Crofts. One is on show at the Graves Gallery, Sheffield and both belong to Museums Sheffield

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Two Sheffield art conservators have been working hard on two paintings of the Battle of Waterloo that have gone on show in museums for the anniversary of the battle.

Lucy Critchlow and Eeva Kukkonen run their own firm, Critchlow & Kukkonen Ltd, in Sheffield and they have been working on two paintings from the Museums Sheffield collection.

The Morning of the Battle of Waterloo and its pair, Wellington’s March from Quatre Bras to Waterloo, were both painted by Ernest Crofts around 1876.

The first painting, which depicts the morning before Napoleon’s downfall, is the centrepiece of a special display at the Graves Gallery in Sheffield alongside Napoleon’s pocket watch and other items from the battle on loan from the National Army Museum in London.

The museums Friends group helped raise money towards the cost of the restoration work.

While the National Army Museum’s main site in Chelsea is closed for redevelopment, objects from its collection are making guest appearances at selected museums across the country.

Included in the display are personal objects used behind the scenes on the battlefield. The other painting has gone on show at the Royal Armouries in Leeds as part of its exhibition, The Art of Battle, bringing together works of art, arms and armour.

Lucy said: “Conservation and restoration is a time-consuming process and we worked on these paintings over a period of several months. We removed surface dirt and then yellowed and discoloured varnish layers and over-paint.

“Removal of these layers revealed the original colours and details of the uniforms, the weapons and the landscape. After this, it was necessary to retouch some small damages and drying cracks.”

Lucy said that training to become a paintings conservator takes many years. Both Lucy and Eeva undertook a masters course in the conservation of easel paintings at the University of Northumbria and went on to complete post-graduate internships in Maastricht in the Netherlands.

Museums Sheffield visual arts curator Hannah Brignell said that the paintings now look bright and clear.

She explained that Ernest Crofts was working almost 60 years after the battle, so he did a lot of research to be accurate. He bought old uniforms and also studied accounts of the battle on which to base his scene.

The Graves Gallery display is on show until August 29 and the Leeds exhibition runs until August 23.

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