Traditional Paint Forum: Relaunch 3-2-2015

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It has now been 20 years since the Traditional Paint Forum was set up, but it has become a bit quiet lately due to several factors. At a committee meeting recently the future of the Forum was debated, and it was decided that a relaunch might be a good idea. This Forum gathers a very diverse group of members that are united by one common factor, paint. Researchers, architects, manufacturers, decorators, restorers and heritage consultants are but a few of the specialisms that come together to share their knowledge of paint, pigment, technique and decoration. When the committee discussed the future prospects it was felt that terminating the Forum would be a huge loss, a sentiment echoed by those attending the event held in the atmospheric surroundings of the Art Workers Guild. Dr. Ian Bristow, now retiring as the Forums president, opened the evening by summing up the many events organised by the Forum over the past 20 years and how its aims are just as relevant now as they were when it was set up.

A plan to form a new committee was presented by Paul Humphreys, there will be some current members that stay on to insure continuity but there will be a room for some members to join the committee as well. This will all be decided in the short term, and I do hope  this relaunch will provide the Forum with the desired new energy to continue to serve as a platform for debates.

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The second part of the evening was devoted to a very interesting lecture by the architectural historian Jonathan Foyle. His talk illustrated through several case studies how paint analysis has helped to inform and guide his research. Some tantalising thoughts on early applications of Sgraffito decoration and diaper brickwork at  Hampton Court Palace opened up the talk. Untill recently Jonathan Foyle was the Chief Executive of the World Monuments Fund Britain, and through their work has been involved with the restoration project of the magnificent interiors of Stowe House. The Paint analysis at Stowe by Patrick Baty has been instrumental in understanding the interiors. The Library is a particularly interesting case where the paint research identified the high point of the various phases for the restoration with a subtle green hue to the coffering combined with gilding. The modern re-gilding of the details matched the original work, with exactly the same amount of gold leaf being used which could be illustrated by archival records.

Another case study discussed, and also the subject of an earlier blog post on this site was Kew Palace. This wonderful little structure changed its appearance quite dramatically, externally and internally, after research had revealed the the original exterior finish to the brickwork and the paint and wallpaper analysis of the interior enabled the reconstruction of the late Georgian interiors.

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The last case study presented is something of a work in progress. In this case its not a building, but a piece of furniture. A four poster bed that came onto the market recently offers tantalising evidence that it might in fact be the Paradise Bed of Henry YII and Elizabeth of York. Until recently the bed was on display at Auckland Castle, and it will soon be put on show at Hever Castle. Although the attribution of the bed has divided opinions the paint analysis carried out by Helen Hughes has identified the use of costly and early pigments such ultramarine covered by later layers of obscuring dark varnishes which give its current slightly Victorian appearance. Is this a discovery that is too good to be true? Or could this actually be a piece of furniture that played a key role in the formation of the Tudor dynasty? It would be great if there would be an opportunity to discuss the subjects further when its on display at Hever Castle, perhaps a good topic for a future Traditional Paint Forum Meeting.

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