It takes a gifted artist to become a great teacher and those who dare to teach never cease to learn.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Chinese Leaves Restored

(Part of Paeonia suffruticosa 'Kung Fan mau Tang' painted by an unknown Chinese artist, Reeves Collection)

Reeves collection is one of the treasures at RHS Lindley Library. It contains close to 900 Chinese watercolors in eight albums. The paintings originate in Canton and Macau painted by Chinese artists commissioned by John Reaves. Three of the painters have been named in the illustrations as well as in Reeves' notebooks: Achew, Akut and Akam - this is one of the details which makes the collection highly unusual (typically the painters were anonymous). Each painter produced approximately one painting per day and was paid ca. one dollar for three paintings. John Reeves, besides being a keen naturalist, worked as Assistant Tea Inspector for the British East India Company in the early decades of the 19th century.

The papers of five volumes have suffered water damage with discoloration, tide-lines and some mold. Pigment chances has also happened even though many times the brightness of the colors (such as blue azurite, green malachite, yellow gamboge and vermilion) has not changed during the nearly 200 years passed. A three-year conservation research project has recently been completed by Katy Bailey. In addition to the digitation work the Reeves collection has been treated because of the discoloration from glue used in binding (animal based) and water damage. To read more about Katy Bailey's research work please click here.

(on the left a Camellia illustration in which the lead white had turned to black lead sulphide due to the sulphur Publish Postdioxide pollution, on the right the restored illustration)

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