A friend, Douglas Rogers, asked if I could re-frame a picture of his father,
Capt. Jim Rogers. It was a charcoal portrait by artist John Watton drawn whilst both were P.O.W’s in the infamous Colditz Castle in 1941.
The glass was badly broken, and on removing the back I discovered, to my horror, that the drawing had been glued to the back of the glass around the edges. Worst of all more glue had been put in the centre, sticking parts of the face and body to the glass. Every time I lifted a section of glass, parts of the drawing came away with it. I decided to cut the remaining glass into small mosaic pieces, using a small chisel and hammer. I was then able to knock the pieces of glass sideways; this was more successful as it left the remaining drawing intact. Unfortunately, by now it was a challenging restoration job to be solved long before any framing could be done.
As an artist I make my own frames and cut my own glass, but had not done any picture restoration before. The drawing had been mounted onto card; cutting off a small amount from the top I found I was able to remove the paper from it. I then laid this over the damaged areas, cutting through both layers allowing the top piece to fit exactly the cut out below.
The glue could not be removed from the surface, so I painted over it using a mixture of acrylic and oxgall. Smaller damaged areas were filled using watercolour, acrylic and crayon before I was able to draw over with charcoal. Douglas had an old photograph of the drawing which we enlarged. I then used it to do a faithful copy. The easy part was then to cut a mount and make a frame!
Artist John Watton drew some hundreds of his fellow prisoner’s portraits in charcoal, pastel, watercolour and conté during his five years in captivity. Many of the drawings were sent to his father in Lyme Regis, via Portugal, and were later published in British and U.S magazines before being forwarded to the prisoners’ relations.
As a member of the Federation of British Artists at the Mall Galleries, and having our annual exhibition of the Pastel society in March, it was agreed I could produce a panel showing the restoration of the portrait in various stages. This was met with much interest.
Bob Last PS April 2007