Throughout its life, a painting can be restored many times, hiding years of damage, accidental or otherwise. As part of a conservation treatment, paintings are cleaned, or returned to their actual state, and revarnished. After revarnishing, areas of damage are blended in with the surroundings using special paints made just for conservators—a process called inpainting or retouching. The extent of damage is very rarely revealed to the museumgoer.
In this rare opportunity, visitors can get a behind-the-scenes look as this process unfolds. Actual State features two Flemish paintings from our collection currently attributed to a follower of Bernard van Orley: The Ascension and The Pentecost (both circa 1530). Conservation treatment has been completed on The Ascension (cleaned, varnished, and retouched), while in the frame next to it is a photographic reproduction of The Pentecost prior to retouching. The painting of The Pentecost sits on an easel nearby—in its actual state. While on public display, it will undergo inpainting to retouch old losses, abrasions, and other damages. In an unusual fashion, only one side of the composition will be retouched first, so that the change can be readily seen.
Actual State will be the first in a series of permanent collection focus exhibitions highlighting the work of the NCMA's Conservation Department.
Watch NCMA conservator Noelle Ocon working in the galleries on The Pentecost at these times:
Tuesdays and Thursdays
February 23–July 7, except for May 17 and 19:
10:30–11:30 am and 1:30–3 pm
February 20–21: 10:30–11:30 am and 1:30–3 pm
March 5–6: 10:30–11:30 am and 1:30–3 pm
March 18-19: 10:30–11:30 am and 1:30–3 pm
April 2–3: 10:30–11:30 am and 1:30–3 pm
May 7–8: 10:30–11:30 am and 1:30–3 pm
June 4–5: 10:30–11:30 am and 1:30–3 pm
July 2–3: 10:30–11:30 am and 1:30–3 pm
July 9–10: 10:30–11:30 am and 1:30–3 pm
Organized by the North Carolina Museum of Art. Support provided by anonymous donors in honor of Noelle Ocon and Dennis P. Weller. This exhibition is also made possible, in part, by the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources; the North Carolina Museum of Art Foundation, Inc.; and the William R. Kenan Jr. Endowment for Educational Exhibitions. Research for this exhibition was made possible by Ann and Jim Goodnight/The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fund for Curatorial and Conservation Research and Travel.