Like many historical artworks, Courbet’s „The Wave“ has been subjected to several conservation and restoration measures over the course of time. The canvas was lined twice; in other words, the original textile was adhered to a newer canvas and, in this case, also mounted on a piece of hardboard. Lining was still practised as late as the 1960s and ʼ70s to reinforce degraded canvases. In many cases it caused severe damage to the paint layer and changes in the character of a textile painting support.
A look through the microscope during the preliminary investigation for the work’s most recent restoration in 2014 shows that impasto areas of the painting ‒ the ridges created by the original brushwork ‒ were damaged by excessive compression during the process of lining the canvas.
As was common practice in his time, Courbet added a transparent varnish to the surface of the composition after the oil paints had dried. Natural resin varnishes yellow and darken with age. This slight optical change is considered an interference in the enjoyment of the work, and varnishes have often been removed at some point in the history of a painting’s existence. The solvents used for this purpose were often too aggressive and caused damage to sensitive dark sections of the painted surface. In this case the beige-coloured priming shows through in places where the paint was unintentionally removed altogether during such a procedure.
Gain further insights into the technological examination and conservation of selected works.