Реставрация живописи смешанных техник в Русском музее

The Mixed Media Paintings Conservation Studio, set up within the Art Conservation Department in 1990, was reorganized into its own sub-department in 2019. The sub-department currently employs four restorers, two of them top-tier specialists and one first-tier.

The Russian Museum boasts a large collection of works that use mixed painting techniques, painted in the late 1800s, early 1900s, the Soviet period, or more recently.


Department Divisions:

 Oil Painting Conservation

 Mixed Media Painting Conservation

 Old Russian Painting (Icons) Conservation

 Paper Graphics Conservation

 Ceramic and Glass Art Conservation

 Metal Art Conservation

 Textile Conservation

 Carved Icon and Wooden Sculpture Conservation

 Gilded Wooden Carving Conservation

 Picture Frame Conservation

 Lacquered Furniture Conservation

 Plaster and Stone Sculpture Conservation

 Contemporary Art Conservation

 Scientific Research

 Conservation Cordination Center


Реставрация живописи смешанных техник. Реставратор высшей категории Нина Русакова за реставрацией панно Константина Коровина. Реставрация живописи. Отдел реставрации музейных ценностей Русского музея.

Large panel paintings by Konstantin Korovin are mounted following restoration. 2010

If fin du siècle Russian artists were experimenting with multiple painting techniques in a single work in an attempt to expand an already lavish arsenal of artistic devices, the revolutionary and post-revolutionary events of the early twentieth century had the reverse effect, giving rise to wildly different – sometimes unbelievable – combinations of materials as a way to make up for the lamentable depletion of that same arsenal. The unavailability of quality paints, canvases, and paper in many cases compelled artists to replace the traditional oil painting support – canvas – with sackcloth or paper, and to use newspapers instead of paper and plywood instead of Bristol board. The result is that today the museum is in possession of a huge number of artworks that, right from the beginning, were not made to last.

However, despite the limited access to art supplies, Russian avant-garde artists stayed firmly on the path of experiment in the 1920s and 1930s, augmenting their paintings with such extraordinary media as sand, tar, plaster, gold leaf, tinfoil, and many others. In addition to these mixed media artworks, the Russian Museum holds (in its folk arts collection) a large quantity of folk paintings (in the Fedoskino and Palekh styles) and shop signs painted on tin. The Old Russian art collection also has a number of distemper and tempera paintings on canvas.

The museum, in addition, has copies of unique Old Russian church mural paintings, many of which can no longer be admired in their original versions. The paintwork of these copies, usually made on paper by leading Russian artists or copyists, is mainly in watercolor, gouache, and tempera, but also often includes “impromptu” additions such as lime, sand, or crushed brick. These exhibits, too, require some unconventional conservation solutions.

Every artwork created in mixed and/or unconventional media, being highly nuanced, requires careful study, custom treatment when it comes to the methods of conservation most suitable for the particular work, and experimentation. In the few years of the studio’s existence, it has restored some great works of art, including a study for the famous painting The Pool by Viktor Borisov-Musatov (oil and tempera on canvas); Portrait of Yelena Olive by Valentin Serov (watercolor and pastel on cardboard); The Royal Hunt by the same artist (tempera and gouache on paper); drawings for stage designs by Sergey Sudeikin, Aleksandra Ekster, and Nikolai Sapunov (oil, gouache, pastel, and gold leaf on canvas and cardboard); Pavel Kuznetsov’s Crimean landscape series (oil on cardboard); paintings by Ivan Bruni, Boris Anisfeld, Nicholas Roerich, Aleksandr Golovin, and Mikhail Vrubel; studies by Aleksandr Vedernikov (oil on paper); and collages by contemporary artists.

Реставрация живописи смешанных техник. Реставратор высшей категории Нина Русакова за реставрацией панно Константина Коровина. Реставрация живописи. Отдел реставрации музейных ценностей Русского музея.

Lead restorer Nina Rusakova working on a 1930s folk art panel painting. 2008

Quite a few mixed media paintings would be impossible to restore without synthetic materials. The paintwork of a mixed media painting often has a peculiar way of disintegrating – they are sometimes susceptible to erosion by moisture, or their texture may be excessively matted and prone to powdering, requiring the use of specially formulated adhesives, or consolidants. In addition to their main purpose, which is to firm up the paintwork, these glues leave no gloss on the painting surface and do not alter its colors or thicken its textures. It frequently happens that, due to the varying properties of the base, the primer, and the paintwork, different consolidating materials have to be used on different parts of a painting.

It was not long after the mixed media conservation workshop was established at the State Russian Museum that its conservators were able to assess all the advantages of synthetic conservation materials – their high penetrative power, their ability to strengthen the parts of the paintwork eroding as a powder without any risk of an “halo”-staining effect or of thickening the texture, and their ability to soften hard areas where the paint is flaking before they are hardened again with a stronger adhesive, all without any threat of damaging the paint layer. When it comes to the overall strengthening (impregnation) of worn-out paper bases or thin canvases, cellulose ester formulas are by far superior to any other material, and incur a much smaller risk of paintwork erosion. Even when the paintwork is not moisture-resistant, a cellulose ester solution will remove all surface soil without any physical damage to the paintwork. Among the extensive range of cellulose esters currently available commercially, the ones most frequently used by our restorers are hydroxylpropylcellulose (Klucel G and Klucel E) and carboxymethyl cellulose (Cellofas), produced by US manufacturer Aqualon and intended for the preparation of water-based and water-and-alcohol-based solutions. Acrylic water-soluble materials by “Lascaux” company (Switz) are currently also very much on hand.

The use of synthetic materials in the conservation of mixed media exhibits does not mean that traditional materials have been abandoned – far from it! Supplies like sturgeon glue and wheat paste, wheat starch and, more rarely, gelatin, are still part of the conservation specialist’s toolkit, as are the traditional know-how and techniques for conservation of oil paintings and works of Art on paper.

One of the landmark projects for the sub-department was the restoration of large painted panels by Konstantin Korovin in the run-up to his solo exhibition, which opened in the Russian Museum in 2011 and was a great success. In recognition of their hard work on this project, Russian Museum restorers Ivan Bezsolitsin, Andrey Bogomolov, Nina Rusakova, and Yevgeniya Shchukina were awarded the Ivan Sautov Special Prize in the category of Art Conservation, part of the Museum Olympus Awards given by the St. Petersburg Culture Committee and St. Petersburg’s Interdepartmental Museum Board.

The Mixed Media Paintings Conservation Studio became an official sub-department of the Art Conservation Department of the Russian Museum as of January 1, 2019.