Tools of the Trade: Inpainting in the Conservation Studio

Retouching paint losses on 'The Pink Candle' by Henri Rousseau, c. 1908. Photos: Patricia Favero

Inpainting, also known as retouching or ‘loss compensation’, is one of the final steps in a conservation treatment. Conservators custom mix dry pigments with stable and reversible media to get just the right color to retouch losses and abrasions on an artwork.  Inpainting is confined to areas of lost paint only. It is intended to be invisible to the naked eye but distinguishable from original paint on close inspection or examination under ultraviolet light. The use of small brushes makes for a slow and exacting process. Something to listen to on the radio or a playlist, podcast, or audiobook is a necessary ‘tool’ for most conservators when completing this work.

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