Harlow’s sculptures get some tender loving care

Entertainment / Sat 15th Oct 2022 at 10:57am

OVER the last three months, conservation work has taken place on five of Harlow’s most iconic sculptures.

Lyndsey Morgan and John Bracken of Patina Art removed scratches & repaired damage and rewaxed Sheep Shearers Not In Anger. 

It was while working on Sheep Shearers recent damage was spotted on one of the sheep’s legs. Someone had tried to saw the leg.  

A week after the conservation work another cut was discovered on the same leg. Thanks to the quick response from our friends in Harlow Technical Services barriers have been put around this significant and popular sculpture by Ralph Brown. We are now looking at ways to improve security around Sheep Shearers and other options to protect it.

Our thanks to the volunteers at St. John’s ARC for cutting back the hedges surrounding Help by F.E. McWilliam. Lyndsey and her colleague Justin Hill then did a great job in cleaning and rewaxing the artwork.  It is interesting to discover more about the decisions conservators make when working the sculptures.  We had an enquiry from Harlow Museum, asking if Help would remain “solid black”. Here is Lyndsey’s reply 

“The dark finish was based on the streaky black traces of wax that we found on the surface when we carried out initial tests so we have gone with a dark brown wax for the treatment which looks darker because of the underlying green colour. I think it may have had a more transparent brown foundry patina originally but this is long gone because the sculpture has been unprotected from the weather for so many years that it had become a very weathered green colour which was not original. It is not really possible to achieve this foundry brown again without totally refinishing and re patinating the sculpture which is a radical (and expensive!) step. We have gone with the previous wax colour with the aim of visually unifying the surface but the wax is completely reversible and can be removed if required without changing the existing green finish. I hope people can agree that it’s now easier to see the word ‘help’ and understand what the sculpture is about!” 

We admire the dedication of our conservators in their work. The cleaning and rewaxing of Boar required Lyndsey to be in waders in the water in the Water Gardens for several hours. Please make time next time you pass Elizabeth Frink’s popular sculpture to appreciate Lyndsey’s great work on it. 

Harlow Art Trust are grateful to the Henry Moore Foundation, Essex Heritage Trust and the Friends of Harlow Sculpture Town for supporting the conservation work on these 4 sculptures.

We are also delighted to report that Harlow Town Park commissioned Plowden and Smith to clean Pisces.  The original plan was for Pisces to get a fresh coat of paint but sadly after the cleaning it  became apparent that the top layer of paint had originally been applied onto the surface which had not been cleaned or prepared for a paint layer, which is why the paint has been peeling. It is hoped that a repaint and take place in the future as it is a more complicated job than had been envisaged.

If you would like to know more about the conservation work of Harlow’s incredible sculpture collection and if you would like to get involved as one of our Sculpture Guardians please contact [email protected]

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1 Comment for Harlow’s sculptures get some tender loving care:

2022-10-16 09:38:46

Re Help: Surely the artist would have planned that the development the green verdigris would develop over time as the work aged as part of the character of the piece? Great that the town has these statues and artworks, they are much appreciated, but so disappointing that there are ignorant idiots that vandalize and make it necessary to put barriers up.

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