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Portrait Cleaning: Revealing Mr Webb

Revealing Mr Webb

…an 18th century portrait reveals its secrets

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Sir Godfrey Kneller Nathaniel Webb of Roundhill Grange, Charlton Musgrove, Somerset (detail) c.1710–20


The story of how Nathaniel Webb, an eighteenth century gentleman, came to be revealed in all his glory will be presented at Christchurch Art Gallery later this month.

Assistant Curator Ken Hall and Oil Paintings Conservator Edward Sakowski will share the results of their work and uncover some surprising stories as they tell the story of the restoration of this important portrait, now attributed to Sir Godfrey Kneller.

The presentation will be held on Wednesday, 27 August in the Philip Carter Family Auditorium, ground floor, at 6pm. Admission to the event, which is part of the Gallery’s Conservation and Restoration Series, is free.

By combining time-lapse animation of the conservation process with some revealing stories attached to the portrait (dating back to 1710-20), the artistic and historical context of this highlight of the Gallery’s collection will be brought into sharp focus.

The portrait is established as being by Sir Godfrey Kneller (1646-1723), a German born, Dutch trained artist who moved to England in the mid 1670s and established himself as the leading society portrait painter. Appointed principal painter to the court of William and Mary in 1688, by the time of his death in 1723, he had served as court painter to four sovereigns and had dominated English art for more than 30 years.

The painting of Nathaniel Webb came to New Zealand with early Christchurch settler Henry Joseph Campbell Jekyll, a great-great-great grandson of the sitter. The portrait was generously donated to the Gallery in 2007 by a later descendant of Nathaniel Webb.

At the time of its donation, gallery staff found the portrait required conservation and repair to frame and canvas. The painting underwent intensive cleaning and repairs before the its unveiling to the public as part of the highly acclaimed I See Red exhibition. Further research into the portrait has brought to light some unsettling tales… come along to find out more!

Revealing Mr Webb will be at Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu at 6pm on Wednesday 27 August 2008. Admission is free.


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