Recently donated to Haslemere Educational Museum in Surrey, this series of paintings tell the story of the infamous murder of the sailor at Hindhead, September 1786. A fascinating narrative set out in five pictorial stages, painted by Pearson, the pub landlord in the 19th century.
Most of the paintings display hugely disfiguring wide alligator style cracks; a recognisable defect created from the uneven drying of the ground layer, paint extenders and bituminous resins. Naively painted by a pub landlord, the artist was perhaps unaware of the longevity of these cheap materials.
Previously hung around the walls of a pub, the warm, dry, smoky, haphazard environment has also had a detrimental impact on the paintings. The surfaces are visibly covered with dirt, varnish has discoloured, the canvas undulating, and a number of holes which appear to have been made by darts or other such jolly, yet unforgiving activity.
The paintings have been paste lined and tears repaired. Unfortunately, previously harsh cleaning has removed the artist’s original glazes, which are often sensitive to solvents. Wide expanses of retouching and overpaint have been applied as a result, and since discoloured.
Each painting depicts a different stage of the conservation process. Due to their intensive previous restoration, each one is currently being treated with sensitivity to retain as much of the artist’s original intentions as possible.
Now treatment completed, the series have returned to Haselmere Educational Museum, Surrey.
Within a few miles of the Museum, it is well worth taking an eerie walk to follow in the Sailor’s footsteps with breathtaking vistas of The Devil’s Punchbowl.