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Paintings Conservation

Located at the de Young, the Sardegna Paintings Conservation Center is devoted to the preservation, study and treatment of the nearly two thousand paintings in the European and American Art Departments and their frames. From the reduction of a yellowed varnish from a 17th-century Italian painting to the reattachment of flaking paint on an early American portrait or the removal of a grime layer on a 20th-century abstract work, the conservation treatment activities of the department are as varied as the paintings in the collection.

Taking into account the artist's materials, methods, and intent, conservators undertake technical research on paintings using such techniques as X-radiography, infrared reflectography, and examination under the microscope to better understand how the works were made and any changes they have undergone. In addition to the study and treatment of paintings, conservators in the department have a variety of other responsibilities such as checking the condition of paintings when they enter and leave the museum, monitoring the temperature and humidity in the galleries, and accompanying paintings when they are loaned to other museums. The department also oversees the treatment of frames in the collection.

Related Content


  • "Tissot's Painting Techniques" by Sarah Kleiner in James Tissot, Melissa Buron with Krystyna Matyjaszkiewicz, ex. cat. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (2019) pp. 238-243.
  • Love and the Maiden by John Roddam Spencer Stanhope: Assumptions and the Importance of Analysis,” by Elise Effmann Clifford in Tempera Painting 1800-1950: Experiment and Innovation from the Nazarene Movement to Abstract Art, eds. Patrick Dietermann, Wibke Neugebauer, Eva Ortner, Renate Poggendorf, Eva Reinkowski-Häfner and Heike Stege, Archetype Publications with the Doerner Institute, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Munich (2019) pp. 181-183.
  • “Bank of America Supports the Conservation Treatment of Morris Louis’s No. 11” by Patricia O'Regan in Fine Arts (Winter 2019) p. 25.
  • “John Roddam Spencer Stanhope: Lessons Learned from the Masters,” by Elise Effmann Clifford in Truth and Beauty: The Pre-Raphaelites and the Old Masters, Melissa Buron, ex. cat. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (2018) pp. 251-259.
  • “The Conservator’s Eye: The Materials and Painting Methods of the Brothers Le Nain,” by Elise Effmann Clifford and Claire Barry, in The Brothers Le Nain: Painters of Seventeenth-Century France, C.D. Dickerson III and Esther Bell, ex. cat. Kimbell Art Museum, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, and the Louvre Lens (2016) pp. 364-389.
  • "The Salon Doré from the Hôtel de la Trémoille: Conservation of the 18th Century gilded boiserie," by Natasa Morovic in 2015 Wooden Artifact Group Postprints: Papers presented at the Forty-third Annual Meeting of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, Miami, Florida (2015).
  • "Victorious Spirit: Conservation of a San Francisco Mural," by Patricia O'Regan in Fine Arts (Fall 2014) pp. 28-29.
  • "Julien Dupré's Milking Time: A Closer Look," by Sarah Kleiner in Fine Arts (Fall 2013) pp. 26-27.
  • Visionary Leadership: A Gift to Conservation,” by Patricia O’Regan in Fine Arts (Summer 2013) pp. 24-25.
  • “Monet’s Water Lilies Returns to the Legion,” by Patricia O’Regan in Fine Arts (Spring 2011).