Conserving a painting is a rather complicated undertaking, requiring considerable skill on the part of the conservator and great trust on the part of the owner. Understandably, most owners want to learn about the process of conservation and what it means for their treasured artworks. For this reason, we approach the whole process in a series of steps that allow our potential clients to become well informed before they permit us to begin conservation treatment of their paintings.

Step 1: Getting started. For most people, the first step in working with Page Conservation is a phone call to our office (202-387-2979). We are usually able to answer the phone personally on weekdays between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Eastern time. At other times, a voicemail system is likely to answer. When you call, we will be more than happy to answer any questions you have about working with us or about conservation generally. To some extent, we can also address specific questions about your painted artwork(s). However, since every artwork is unique, there is a limit to what we can tell you over the phone.

Step 2: Preliminary examination. The next step in the process, then, is to meet for a preliminary examination of your painting. Whenever possible, the examination should be done at our studio, where all of our equipment and materials are readily available. Preliminary examinations conducted at our studio are normally free of charge or obligation. If possible, you should be present, so that we can discuss the painting's needs with you firsthand. In some cases, it is not possible or practical to examine an artwork at the studio. Murals are an obvious example, and many easel paintings and polychromed sculptures are too large or heavy to move without professional assistance. We are happy to examine such artworks in situ, but we may need to invoice you for travel time, labor, and/or equipment costs (e.g., scaffolding). If we anticipate that this will be the case, we will give you an estimate of costs in advance. During a preliminary examination, we are usually able to identify most of a painting's needs and offer an rough estimate of conservation treatment costs. It is then up to you to decide whether to go on to the next step in the process.

Step 3: Detailed examination, report, and recommended treatment. If, after hearing the results of the preliminary examination, you are interested in going further, then the next step is usually a detailed examination of the artwork. This is normally done either at our studio or in situ. Examinations done at the studio are generally completed within two weeks or so. For in situ examinations, we may need additional time and may need to set up ladders or scaffolding to gain access to the artwork.

When an artwork is to remain at our studio for examination or treatment, we will give you a receipt for it. At that time, we will also ask you to declare a value, so that the artwork can be insured against ordinary hazards (fire, theft, etc.) while on our premises. Most owners elect to have us provide insurance at a nominal cost under the studio policy. On rare occasion, it is possible to arrange insurance under an owner's fine arts policy. However, we require that Page Conservation, Inc. be named as co-insured or that it be issued a waiver of subrogation.

Upon completing a detailed examination of your artwork, we will write a detailed, narrative-style Report of Examination with a step-by-step Recommended Treatment and an exact, itemized Cost of Treatment. (Occasionally, when circumstances warrant, we may offer two or three different treatment options, each with its own itemized cost.) We then send this document to you, along with two copies of a contract. You should read the report carefully and contact us if you have any questions. For most easel paintings, there is no separate charge for the examination and report if you subsequently authorize conservation treatment. If, however, you elect not to authorize treatment, you will be invoiced a modest report fee. The fee may later be applied toward conservation treatment of the painting, but only if treatment is authorized within one year of the date on the report. For some artworks, especially those requiring in situ examination, we may incur substantial costs during the detailed examination process. If this is the case, we will tell you in advance what you will be invoiced for this stage of the work.

Step 4: Treatment. If, after receiving our written materials, you would like to authorize conservation treatment, you simply execute one copy of the contract and return it to us with your deposit (generally 50% of the labor cost). Upon receiving these materials, we schedule the work. We are very sensitive to our clients' desired completion schedules and do our best to arrange our workload to accommodate them. Requests to view a painting during treatment are also honored whenever possible. The amount of time necessary to complete a treatment depends on several factors, including: the amount of labor involved; the availability of conservators with the appropriate skills to perform the treatment; the amount of time required to manufacture or obtain any custom-made materials that may be required (e.g., a new stretcher); and the overall studio workload at the time. Sometimes conservation treatment may take longer than anticipated. This may be the result of discoveries made during treatment, such as old damages that were not visible during our detailed examination. On rare occasion, unexpected discoveries may require us to rethink our treatment approach and consult with you before proceeding.

Step 5: Completion. When treatment has been completed on your artwork, we will notify you immediately and attempt to arrange a time for you to view and approve our work. In most cases, we will ask that you pay the balance due upon approval.

A note about transporting paintings. In many cases, owners are able transport their artworks to our studio in their own vehicles. The safest method for doing this is usually to place the artwork flat, face up, in the trunk of a sedan or on the cargo deck of a van or SUV. To prevent sliding while the vehicle is in motion, position the painting toward the front of the cargo area, carefully blocking it in place with other objects if necessary. It is usually a good idea to leave the painting in its frame (if any), unless the frame's size or weight poses problems.

Another method of transporting the paintings to our studio is to utilize the services of a company which specializes in the handling, packing, and transport of artwork. We will suggest appropriate companies upon request. Unless your artwork has been professionally crated by one of these art handling companies, we strongly recommend that you not utilize the services of ordinary moving companies, common carriers, the Postal Service, or package delivery services. Painted artworks can be seriously damaged in transit by carriers who are not set up or qualified to transport delicate items. Seriously deteriorating artworks pose special transport problems because so much damage can occur in transit. We have seen paintings that have lost as much as half of their remaining paint while being shipped. If you think that flaking or other serious conditions may pose packing or transport problems for your artwork, please consult us beforehand.

What about frames? If you have a frame that you intend to continue using with a painting, we normally prefer to have it available when the painting is being examined and treated. This allows us to ensure that the painting and frame will mate properly after treatment, and to properly and securely mount the painting in the frame before it leaves our care. On the other hand, if a frame is damaged or deteriorating, we may recommend that it be evaluated by a frame conservator. (Page Conservation performs only minor work on frames.) If you wish, we will gladly suggest qualified frame conservators and/or help coordinate frame examination and treatment. When possible, we will endeavor to coordinate our work so that both painting and frame are ready at about the same time.

Portrait of woman artist before treatment
Portrait of woman artist during treatmentPortrait of woman artist after treatment