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To restore a painting takes the combined skills of a surgeon, a detective and an inventor

In a self-portrait from 1907, the German artist Paula Modersohn-Becker painted herself with a hand over her stomach, suggesting pregnancy, shortly before dying of complications from childbirth. In this short video from the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the art conservator Diana Hartman guides viewers through the delicate process of repairing tears at the edge of the precious painting. Hartman’s surgeon-like skills make use of a set of repurposed tools and shared knowledge developed through trial and error within the small community of art restorers. With each project presenting a unique set of challenges, often requiring many months of planning and painstaking work, conservation calls for improvisation, experience and patience in equal measure – not to mention a switch to decaf coffee to avoid dangerous jitters.

4 November 2019

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