Theatre Royal Haymarket

Paintings Restored at the Haymarket

Wednesday, January 27th, 2016

Detail after treatment

Regular visitors to the Haymarket may well be familiar with the two impressive ‘tapestry’ paintings that line the walls in our auditorium. But over the past century, generations of theatre-lovers have left their mark. Below, Dr Harriet Standeven writes about the process of restoring these works to their former glory and conserving them for our patrons to enjoy for many years to come …



Theatre Royal Haymarket – Conservation of two tapestry paintings

The two ‘tapestry’ paintings are situated at either side of the entrance to the stalls.  They are thought to date from 1904, when the theatre was refurbished.  The paintings comprise oil paint applied directly to rep weave canvas.  Rep weave canvas has a very thick weft thread, resulting in the ribbed appearance that contributes to the illusion of a woven tapestry.

The situation of the paintings means they are exposed to heavy human traffic, with many people touching or brushing past them every day.  Over time, this has caused damage in the form of loose and missing threads, and significant abrasions and losses to the paint layer. The aim of the conservation treatment was to stabilise the paintings, infill the large losses, and re-integrate the missing areas of paint. The paintings also needed protecting from future damage.

There were some important considerations that directed the treatment: all conservation materials must be stable, and also reversible in case they require future removal.  Furthermore, as the theatre was in use throughout, an instant heat-seal adhesive and quick drying retouching materials were essential to ensure that the paintings were stable and secure for each performance.


Using a heated spatula to apply the adhesive
Using a heated spatula to apply the adhesive
Adhering new threads
Adhering new threads


Cotton thread of a similar diameter to the original weft threads was chosen as the infilling material.  The thread was ‘sized’ by soaking in very dilute acrylic, and allowed to dry; this gave it more strength and prevented it from fraying.  The new threads were then adhered to the paintings using Beva 371 heat-seal adhesive.  Both the new threads and the extensive abrasions were retouched with watercolour.

Following conservation treatment, it was important that the paintings were protected from future damage. Therefore, sheets of laminated low reflecting glass were installed in front of each.



Left-hand painting, before treatment
Left-hand painting, before treatment


Left-hand painting, after treatment
Left-hand painting, after treatment

Dr. Harriet A. L. Standeven. Modern & Contemporary Art Conservation. 25 January 2016.


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