Greg Leatherman

Greg Leatherman manages communications for Alchemy Fine Art Restorers. He is also a founding editor of Environment Coastal & Offshore (ECO) magazine. For more information, visit

Pharoah’s Horses

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“The Pharoah’s Horses” is an 1848 work by British painter John Fredrick Herring Sr.

In partnership with our good friends at Palm City Art and Frame, Alchemy Fine Art Restorers worked on a well-executed, but damaged copy of this famous image.

The owner of this damaged painting knew it was a copy, but appreciated the work as a decorative piece, as he should have. Such popular images are frequently copied by students and admiring amateurs.  Typically, there is no intent to deceive. Rather, these works are used as teaching tools by the aspiring artist. In this case, the painter was a relative of the owner.

Pharoah’s Horses: An Iconic Image

“The Pharoah’s Horses” is one of the most popular images of all time!  It has decorated countless parlors for over a century and is a popular tattoo.  Antiques Roadshow lists it as one of the most copied paintings. In fact, it was once so ubiquitous that it is included in the background of Norman Rockwell’s “Solitaire” (1950).

Does this mean a copy is always worthless?  Perhaps not. A year after Herring’s work sold at auction for almost half-a-million dollars, a man bought what he thought was a copy for $25 at a Missouri flea market (1987). After painstaking research into the paint and canvas chemistry of this flea market find, it was postulated that the Herring painting might itself be a copy of an earlier work.  Suddenly, the flea market copy was the original and the original a copy!

Alchemy Fine Art Restorers can’t determine which was original without examining the paintings first-hand, but you have to admit, it’s an interesting story.

Here’s hoping you find your own flea market treasure.  In the mean time, enjoy some images from our restoration of “Pharoah’s Horses.”

The damaged, dirty painting.

The damaged, dirty painting. The canvas was torn in multiples spots.


Cleaning in progress, showing half and half.

The restored and cleaned Pharoah's Horses

The fully restored and cleaned Pharoah’s Horses.


The Art and Science of Color Mixing

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A Color Mixing Workshop with Kate Wood

This hands-on color mixing workshop explores oil paint color combinations and how to use color theory to make natural looking paintings. This class will discuss and use color coding and chemical coding of oil paints. Expert instruction explains how paint chemistry works and which pigments to avoid to ensure the lasting beauty of your oil paintings.

The workshop is offered in two sessions. The morning session covers color coding, color mixing and color theory. The afternoon covers advanced color mixing, value scales and paint chemistry.

Saturday, December 6,  9:30-12:30 and 1:00-4:00

Cost is $35 for one session or $60 for the full day workshop.

Sign-up at Alizarin Crimson Studio (772) 287-7030 or with Kate Wood (772) 287-0835.


Kate Wood teaching color mixing.

Kate Wood teaching color mixing.

Supplies to Bring:

Freezer Paper, Masking Tape. Palette Knife, Paper Towels, Notebook/Pen/Sharpie

Recommended Colors to Bring:

No student brands, like Winton or “hue” pigments. You can substitute with paint colors that you use more commonly.

  • Titanium White
  • Cadmium Yellow Light
  • Yellow Ochre
  • Cadmium Red Light or Grumbacher (Napthol) Red
  • Thalo Rose or Alizarin Crimson
  • Sap Green
  • Thalo Green
  • Ultramarine Blue
  • Thalo Blue
  • Burnt Sienna
  • Burnt Umber


Alchemy Fine Art Restorers in Stuart, FL, provides a full range of world-class art conservation and restoration. With over a decade of conservation experience and over two decades as a working artist, owner Kate Wood is a highly skilled technician. She expertly treats paintings on canvas, as well as conserving paper, pottery, leather, porcelain, woven fabric, and wooden objects. Kate is the only conservator on the Treasure Coast with the advanced painting, sculpting, and workshop skills to restore such a range. She cares about your precious objects and takes pride in returning them to their full measure of beauty.

Ancestral Portraits and Yellow Fever on the Bayou

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One of the joys of restoration is discovering the history of a painting; and nothing has more history than ancestral portraits. Kate Wood of Alchemy Fine Art Restorers (with some help from her researcher husband) looked into the origins of two nineteenth century portraits of the Thibodaux Family.  What she found led her into a fascinating world of Civil War plunder, society painters, and the tragic impacts of Yellow Fever.

The Thibodaux family, which included several prominent politicians, were a leading Acadian family of Old Louisiana for whom the county seat of Lafourche Parish is named.  Family legend relates that both portraits were water-damaged during the Civil War when they removed from the wall and hidden deep in the swamps by Marguerite Bridget (Thibodaux) Tucker and her husband Joseph Pennington Tucker.  Interestingly, between 1863 and 1867, three siblings of the Thibodaux family married three siblings of the Tucker family.  Our first assumption was that the paintings were of “Bridget” and her husband Joseph.  But who painted them?

Portrait of Joseph Pennington Tucker - Before Restoration

Portrait of Husband – Before Restoration

Portrait of Joseph Pennington Tucker - After Restoration

Portrait of Husband – After Restoration


Portrait of Marguerite Bridget (Thibodaux) Tucker - Before Restoration

Portrait of Wife – Before Restoration

Portrait of Marguerite Bridget (Thibodaux) Tucker - After Restoration

Portrait of Wife – After Restoration


In researching the artist who may have painted these portraits, the first thing Kate noted was the lack of a signature, and loss of the large cap frame, which is not uncommon.  Secondly, Kate noted the high quality of the work, which makes it unlikely that this was the work of an itinerant painter (limner).  It has all the hallmarks of a society portrait artist.

Close up of water damage

Closeup of water damage

Close up of water damage

Repaired section

Repaired section






Two well-known candidates painted in New Orleans during the period suggested by the subjects’ attire and other attributes of the work (the late 1830s to 1860).   While Kate took a long look at society portrait artist Jean Joseph Vaudechamp, the most likely artist for these portraits is Jacques Guillaume Lucien Amans. Widely considered the most important portrait painter in New Orleans at this time, Amans painted many of the prominent families of the day, including a number of Louisiana politicians. A portrait he rendered of Andrew Jackson shows his marked tendency for neo-classical backgrounds.

Amans also had a knack for developing sensitive, expressive  faces, as  exhibited in these restored examples. Also note a similar handling in the painting of the hands, as well as the poses used to depict the sitter.  Most importantly, after leaving New Orleans in the mid-1840sAmans lived quite near the Thibodaux family for about a decade before returning to France in 1856.

The problem here is that Marguerite Bridget Thibodaux was ten when the artist moved back to France, and according to famed Art Historian William H. Gerdts (in Art Across America: Two Centuries of Regional Painting: 1710-1920), Jacques Amans never returned to Louisiana.

This pointed us to Marguerite Bridget Thibodaux’s father, Henry Hubert Claiborne Thibodaux, who was elected to the Louisiana State Legislature in 1834, who  was appointed probate judge for Terrebonne in 1845, and who according to legend was the first white male born in Terrebonne Parish. Unfortunately, he died of Yellow Fever at age 45 on November 11, 1855.  He is buried in St. Bridget’s Cemetery in Houma, LA.

Not only does he fit the typical profile for a portrait subject by Amans, but he fits the time period.  It makes perfect sense that his daughter, who was nine when he died, would have  not only hidden and protected his painting, but would have taken such care of it afterwards that it survived to modern times.  This makes the likely candidate for the female portrait Henry Thibodaux’s wife Mathilda  (Toups) Thibodaux (1819-1863), whom Henry married in 1838 and who’s family had already been in Louisiana for a century by the time these portraits were painted.

Furthermore, it is highly likely that Yellow Fever, which was ravaging the south, including Thibodaux, Louisiana in the 1850s, was the painter‘s primary reason for leaving Louisiana (only months after Henry Hubert Claiborne Thibodaux’s death).

Lastly, evidence of Amans’ connection to the Thibodaux family includes the authorship of a thesis on Jacques Guillaume Lucien Amans by Tulane University student Mary Louise (Trammel) Tucker  in 1970.  She is very likely a descendent of Mary Louise Tucker – one of the three Tucker siblings to marry Thibodaux siblings between 1863 and 1867.

The Plot Thickens

After we did this research, the owner of the paintings followed up by contacting Nicholls State University, located in Thibodaux, Louisiania.  Archivist Clive Theriot confirmed that the restored paintings were of Henry Claiborne Thibodaux and Mathilde Marie Toups, per a photograph held in the University’s collections.  He noted that paintings also exist of Henry Schuyler Thibodaux (1769-1827) and his wife, Brigitte Thibodaux (nee Belanger).  Henry S. founded the town of Thibodaux, was a President of the Louisiana Senate, and even served briefly as the 4th Governor of Louisiana.

However, Theriot was unable to confirm the name of the painter for any of these portraits.

Alchemy’s Tips for Working with Art Professionals

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Kate Wood restoring a natural fiber wall hanging.

Kate Wood restoring a natural fiber wall hanging.

Across two decades as an art teacher, master conservator, and oil painter, Kate Wood has learned how to get the most out of interactions with art professionals, including proven best-practices to avoid common pitfalls.

Kate shares some of her essential tips for working with art professionals below. Whether you are looking to sell a work of art, commission a portrait, restore an object, or just find a frame that compliments your art, some basic rules from the owner of Alchemy Fine Art Restorers can save you money and ensure that you get the best possible results.

1. Getting an art appraisal:

When getting an art appraisal never sell your art to the same person who appraised it. Neither should you allow the appraiser to sell your art for you. Insurance companies require a expert third party opinion to determine the value of your art. Any monetary interest the appraiser has in the value of your art can undermine the integrity of your appraisal.

When an appraiser offers to buy or sell your work, right after quoting you a price, it’s a conflict of interest. In fact, no reputable appraiser would ever do this.  “Oh, that painting? It’s worth $500. I’ll give you $350.”

If this happens to you, run the other way. The painting might be worth twice that.

Reputable appraisers charge a per piece flat rate, not a fee based on a percentage of the appraised value nor an hourly rate. Neither should they release any appraisal information without prior consent of the client.

The condition will affect the value of your art. For example, if a painting is dirty, ripped, or poorly conserved, it is worth less than one in good condition.

When the painting was created in the context of the artist’s life, as well as its subject, will also govern its value. Certain periods in an artist’s production tend to be more sought after than others.

An appraisal is not forever. It reflects the current, fluctuating art market. A document sale price even five years old is outmoded, and five years from now, your latest appraisal may completely change.

Consider getting a second opinion if the person appraising your work also offers to restore/conserve the object. Unscrupulous persons might claim a third rate painting has a high value in order to convince a client to purchase expensive restoration services. Finding the value of a work is often simple. Numerous auction record sites are available online, including a free, searchable site anyone can use at Blouin Art Sales Index.

If your exact object is not included in the records, find one that matches it as closely as possible in size and condition. Also, auction values fluctuate, so use the most recent record, preferably within the last five  years. Note: Auction records represent a wholesale price. Dealer records are a retail price.

2. Selling art on consignment:

When selling your art through a gallery, always get the agreement in writing. It could take months or years to sell a work of fine art. It’s important that you have a contract in place that explains the exact terms of  your agreement with the gallery.

For example, a gallery owner is tasked with appraising your signed Matisse print and asked to confirm that it is real in order to sell it. He is unable to get the work authenticated, but he sells it to another dealer for $5000, while implying that it could be real. Then, he tells you that it is definitely a fake and that he has an offer on the table for $1000. You agree to sell for $1000 (though the piece has already left the gallery). After the gallery collects the verbally agreed upon 35%, you end up with a mere $650 in store credit (which you may never use), while the gallery owner clears $5000!

And what about the dealer who paid $5000? He already has a buyer lined up for his fake Matisse print. Read this site for more on commonly faked prints.

Example #2: a gallery owner believes that your art would sell faster if it looked older. Without asking for our permission, he sprays an artificially darkened varnish over the entire painting. If his ploy to trick the buyer doesn’t work and the piece doesn’t sell, the art is irreversibly compromised. This is unacceptable on many levels.

These cautionary tales would not happen with a legitimate contract in force. Such contracts are standard practice in reputable galleries and you should never deal with any gallery unwilling to provide one. This applies both to the professional artist selling original work and the collector selling  pieces by another artists.

To protect yourself, always require an original copy of a signed contract that says exactly what percent of the final sale the gallery receives. Most galleries charge a 30% to 50% commission for the sale of your work. Specify that if the art is sold at a discount, the difference come out of the gallery owner’s share, not your share. Stipulate that any alterations to the work, including restoration, varnishing, changing out any elements, etc. require your pre-approval. Also stipulate that you shall receive a signed receipt of the transaction between the gallery and the buyer, showing the exact final sale price. Each of these things can protect you from unscrupulous practices.

Before you trust a gallery to sell your artwork on commission, photograph your object in good light, documenting the appearance / condition. Include close-ups of the exact frame you delivered. That way, should the object suffer any damage at the hands of the gallery owner, you hold proof of its original state. Always take measurements of both the image size and the frame size and document these.

Make copies of all receipts or histories of the work. This is its provenance and is very important to the sale of a work of art. Give the dealer the copies of receipts. Upon final sale, give the originals to the buyer. This way, if the art work is damaged or even “lost” by the dealer, you have proof of your ownership.

3. Commissioning a portrait or mural:

When working with a commission artist or muralist, ask to see a portfolio their work. Ask a portrait artist if they would like to photograph your subject. They may have creative ideas or scenes that they like to work with. Whatever you do, don’t use flash photography. It flattens the subject and steals color. If you hand an artist a yearbook photo, that’s what you’ll get. If it doesn’t look good in a photo, it won’t look good on canvas.

If you are going to take a photo for the artist to work with, try to set the scene. Think in terms of background. Natural places, good lighting and being at the same level as your subject are all important. A phot0 looking down at a dog on a tile floor, for example, might make for a cute snapshot, but it’s not a very good subject for a portrait painting.

Agree to a price up front and expect to pay a deposit. This protects you both. It’s fine to request a pre-signature viewing. If you like it, have them sign it. If there is something you would like changed, this gives you a chance to make that request. Don’t accept the work as final until you love it.

When working with a muralist, ask for a to-scale sketch that you can approve. The sketch won’t be as detailed as the finished product, but it will give you an idea what your wall will look like. If you are working from a reference photo, make sure it is what you really want. Artists may have a hard time translating, “I want this field, but could you put two horses in it?” If that is what you want, get a good photo of two horses in a field.

4. Working with an art conservator:

When working with an art conservator, look at their past work. Any good conservator has a portfolio of the type of projects at which they excel. Always be sure you understand the processes they will use to conserve your work. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if they are using technical terms or jargon. Always get an estimate of the work be done and what it costs, just like you would if you were taking a car in for repairs.

For example:

Flora Oil Painting, 16″ x 20″

Work to be done: lined, cleaned, missing areas in-painted, UV protective gloss varnish

Price: $300

Tax: $18

Total: $318

Deposit: $159

Due on completion: $159

I do not recommend paying the entire amount up-front. A deposit of half should suffice. Leaving half of the job unpaid is an incentive to the conservator to complete the task.

Asking for a rough deadline is fine but a definite date may be difficult to pin point. The cleaning may expose previous repairs that require more attention. If a painting took two hundred years to come to a state of disrepair, it will take more than two weeks to turn that around. Be patient. It’s worth the wait. It’s not unreasonable to ask for a mid-restoration photograph, however, to see progress on your work. I recommend this.

It’s also wise to take your own “before” picture, so you can compare the state of disrepair with the results you paid for.

5. Framing art:

Choosing a frame for your art can be a confusing task. There are so many choices and ways to frame an artwork. First, it is very important to frame to the best advantage of the artwork, not to match the sofa. The art will (hopefully) far outlive furniture trends. A frame is like a dress on a woman, the more befitting the dress, the prettier the woman. The more flattering the frame, the more beautiful the artwork.

One general rule off thumb: don’t use a frame darker than the darkest dark or lighter than the lightest light in the painting. It’s a distraction from the piece.

It’s equally important to ensure the longevity of the piece. Works on paper should be framed in an acid-free environment. Reputable frame shops offer this alternative. It may cost a little more, but it ensures the long-term stability of the paper. Works that were framed many years ago were most likely framed with acid content mats and cardboard. They should be replaced with acid-free backing and matting. If you look a the beveled edge of the matting and it is yellow or brownish, it has an acid content. All artwork and photos should be framed so they don’t touch the glass. Mat board or spacers will keep humidity from making the artwork stick to the glass. Pastels should be framed with a reverse bevel, so any dust that falls from the drawing will fall behind the mat and not dirty the overall look of the framed work.

It is important to frame oil paintings, not just to beautify the work, but also to protect them. I discourage papering the backs of oil paintings. Many framers do this to present a finished look and hide the screws and clips. Over time, this acid content brown paper degrades and falls into the back of the stretcher bars. The paper also traps humidity which gives mold and mildew a nice, comfy place to thrive.

Framing can be expensive. Every step from creating the frame’s finish to fitting is a specialized skill. Good framing is worth the cost, as it will serve the artwork for the span of its life, allowing many generations to enjoy the piece. However, this does not mean you necessarily need to purchase the most expensive frame in the shop. If the framer shows you a frame that is $76 per foot, ask to see less expensive options as well. It could be that a frame at $22 or $12 per foot, which has the same essential profile, will flatter the work as well. For example, not every framed work of art needs gold leaf gilding, when metal leaf will suffice. Even some painted finishes are attractive. Purchase the frame that fits both the art and your budget.

We hope you’ve enjoyed these tips for working with art professionals. In summary, don’t be afraid to ask questions and always get it in writing!

Antique Bone China Porcelain Restoration

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The word-of-mouth about Alchemy Fine Art Restorer’s expertise continues to build along with owner Kate Wood’s portfolio, in no small part due to miracles like the porcelain restoration featured below.

A new client had a rather large painting fall from display in their home, damaging the frame, the canvas, and three vases.  Kate Wood expertly restored the museum-quality painting and frame, but the client wanted to know: could she also repair the three vases?

When these antique bone china vases came into Kate’s studio at Alchemy Fine Art Restorers, a significant portion arrived in a zip-lock bag, including shards and dust. It was a daunting puzzle.

Nonetheless, with her eye for painstaking detail and unique workshop skills, Kate was able to return these vases to their original state of elegance. It’s no exaggeration to say she is the only restorer working on the Treasure Coast who could successfully restore these objects.

The Proof is in the Seeing

Upon completion, the client noted that they could no longer tell where the damage had been. See for yourself: here are the remarkable before and after photos of Kate’s bone china porcelain restoration:

Severely damaged vase.

Severely damaged vase.

Three tragically damaged vases.

Three tragically damaged vases.










Repaired tops

Repaired tops

Broken tops

Broken tops








Three gorgeous vases gloriously restored.

Three elegantly repaired vases stand as a testament to the porcelain restoration capabilities of Alchemy Fine Art Restorers.




Contact Alchemy: If you own an object in need of professional attention, make an appointment with Alchemy Fine Art Restorers in Stuart, FL. Estimates are always free and we even provide local pickup and delivery!

Owner and Lead Restorer: Kate Wood

Phone: (772) 287-0835; Email:







The Sailor’s Return – Restoring an Oil Painting

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Alchemy Fine Art Restorers has been busy restoring everything from Moroccan doors to church iconography, but this oil painting was particularly intriguing.

Carl Wilhelm Hubner  (1814-70) was a genre painter who met with great success in Holland and America.  His paintings are among the permanent collections of several European and American museums.  Among his best known works are a series of paintings showing a young seaman returning home.  While similar in theme and composition, the paintings vary in the nationality of the sailor and his family. The version Alchemy restored below measures 36″ by 48″ and dates from the last decade of Hubner’s career.

The uncleaned canvas before repair of the tear.

The canvas before repair of the tear or cleaning.

Restoring an Oil Painting and Frame

Restoring an oil painting is hard work! In this assignment, Alchemy owner Kate W0od lined the painting with fresh canvas and bees-wax. She carefully cleaned the canvas and removed old varnish.  She removed previous attempts at inpainting and fixed the torn canvas, then covered the tear with reversible inpainting.  She also repaired the shattered corner of the  frame using the original shards of wood, and re-gilded it. Lastly, she added a UV-protective varnish to the gloriously restored painting and returned the sailor to his home port.

Severe damage to the canvas that needed restoring.

Severe damage to the canvas that needed restoring.


The damaged frame before any restoration work was begun.

The damaged frame before any restoration work was begun.


A painting in the process of being cleaned by Kate Wood of Alchemy Fine Art Restorers.

“Sailor’s Return” in the process of being cleaned by Kate Wood of Alchemy Fine Art Restorers.


The repaired frame.

The repaired frame.


Repaired tear with in painting. All of the in painting done by Alchemy Fine Art Restorers is entirely reversible.

Repaired tear with in painting. All of the inpainting done by Alchemy Fine Art Restorers is entirely reversible.


Fully restored.

Fully restored.


Carefully padding the painting for delivery to our client.

Carefully padding the painting for delivery to our client.

Restoring an oil painting is one of the most satisfying assignments Alchemy Fine Art Restorer’s can get.  Not only is Kate Wood an expert in oil painting, but she gets to meet the most interesting private collectors.  This was certainly one of those cases and well worth the time and care it took to rescue this delightful work of art.

Kate Wood Presents to Questers

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Alchemy Fine Art Restorers owner Kate Wood will present an overview of art conservation to one of the world’s top organizations when it comes to restoring historical treasures.

Kate will present to the Treasure Coast Chapter of the Questers on Wednesday, 12 February 2014.  Attendees to this members-only event can bring example objects in need of restoration or cleaning for discussion on how they would be approached from an expert conservator’s point of view.  Objects should be of a manageable size and weight. Kate will also share some insight into the tools of her trade as well as her philosophy of fine art restoration.

The Questers, an international organization, was created to advance the understanding and knowledge of antiques, and to preserve and restore historical sites and buildings.  They share a common motto when it comes to antiques, “It’s fun to search and a joy to find.”

Aside from their charitable support of area historical foundations, the Treasure Coast Chapter hosts an annual antique show in downtown Stuart, FL, which has raised funds to restore the Stuart Feed Store Museum, the House of Refuge, the Lyric Theatre, the Victory Museum, the Children’s Museum, the Mansion at Tuckahoe,  and others.

For more information, visit

Photo Cleaning & Paper Restoration

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A stained surface distracts from the overall impression of the image.  This week, Alchemy cleaned this engaging photo of a girl.  To maintain the integrity of the photo, Kate used proprietary chemical processes to lighten the staining.  

Photo Cleaning

Here are some before and after images of a photo cleaning performed by Kate Wood. Click on the photo to see a more detailed version:

Before: The painting was stained and dirty.

Before photo cleaning: The painting was stained and dirty.

A lovely smile is again the focus of this engaging portrait.

After: A lovely smile is again the focus of this engaging portrait.











Paper Restoration

With delicate materials like paper, cleaning is meant to restore the image back to a state where it can be proudly displayed. Here are before and after images from a recent paper cleaning project Alchemy Fine Art Restorers completed. Unlike some other restorers, this was not done via Photoshop or any other digital manipulation. Instead, the original paper image was cleaned and restored using modern, reversible techniques.

Click on each image to see larger versions of these paper restoration samples.

Before restoration

Before restoration







After Restoration by Alchemy Fine Art Restorers

After Restoration by Alchemy Fine Art Restorers

If you own an object in need of professional attention, make an appointment with Alchemy Fine Art Restorers in Stuart, FL. Estimates are always free and we even provide local pickup and delivery!

Owner: Kate Wood Phone: (772) 287-0835,


Contact Alchemy: If you own an object in need of professional attention, make an appointment with Alchemy Fine Art Restorers in Stuart, FL. Estimates are always free and we even provide local pickup and delivery!

Owner: Kate Wood Phone: (772) 287-0835


Cleaning Oil Paintings

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Kate Wood of Alchemy Fine Art Restorers has been cleaning oil paintings for well over a decade.

As an oil paint instructor and lifelong artist, her knowledge of paint chemistry aids in cleaning oil paintings. Kate puts the integrity of the original painting above all else. That said, the results are dramatic. Many people think old paintings are supposed to look faded, dirty or dark. This is not the case. While furniture may benefit from patina, paintings should be cleaned carefully by an expert.

Often, the paintings she saves are a century or more old, such as this handsome gentlemen, who Kate touched up in 2011. Older paintings tend to need a complete cleaning (thus making for dramatic ‘in process’ samples), so you will find several on this site. Still, they represent only a small fraction of the paintings Alchemy Fine Art Restorers cleans.

Painting in process of cleaning by Kate Wood.

Painting in process of cleaning by Kate Wood.

Alchemy Fine Art Restorers rescued a number of older pieces this holiday season.  Among these recent projects, Kate Wood cleaned and restored this painting showing the emblems of the classic arts and sciences. We are always delighted when our clients ask us to restore such interesting works of art and will offer some insight into the painting whenever possible.

Restoring an allegory of the arts . . .



In painting, an allegory is the representation of a metaphor to illustrate complex ideas in a succinct manner. Typically, artists use allegories as symbolic devices that convey hidden meanings  or hint at the moral, spiritual, or political meaning the artist wishes to convey. The technique is also used frequently in literature, drama sculpture, and the other arts, may of which are presented as the subject matter of this painting.

Famous allegorical artworks in history include:

Sandro Botticelli – La Primavera (Allegory of Spring)
Albrecht Dürer – Melancholia I
Artemisia Gentileschi – Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting; Allegory of Inclination
Jan Vermeer – The Allegory of Painting

“In any painting, as in any other work of art, there is always an idea, never a story. The idea is the point of departure, the first cause of the plastic construction, and it is present all the time as energy creating matter. The stories and other literary associations exist only in the mind of the spectator, the painting acting on the stimulus.” – José Clemente Orozco (1883-1949), Mexican painter, “New World, New Races, and New Art,” Creative Art Magazine, January 1929.

Previous restorations may require extra attention

You never know what you will find when cleaning oil paintings. While cleaning this early 20th century portrait of Napoleon, Kate Wood uncovered old fills that had come loose, leading to paint loss that now needed repair. Compounding the loss, was an attempt by the owner to clean the painting with a vacuum. After filling the lost areas, Kate matched the original paint and restored Napoleon to his brooding glory. Lo, Alba . . . Below is the original, followed by filled-in lost areas leftover from a previous restoration, and the final, reframed and restored painting.

Napoleon in need of attention

White areas filled after paint loss

Napoleon Restored

Paintings can suffer from a single spot of damage, such as the following example from 2013:

Accidents can happen to anyone! While painting the living-room wall, a hired-hand cut some corners and accidentally dripped paint on one of Kate Wood’s own oil paintings. Kate carefully cleaned the splatter to expertly restore the painting.

Click on the images to see larger versions.

Looking at this beautiful painting, we noticed a contractor had dribbled wall paint on it!

A careless contractor dribbled wall paint on this painting of Japanese koi!

Kate's painting of koi fish needed restoration.

Kate’s painting of koi fish needed cleaning.

A closeup of the culprit!

A closeup of a dribble!

The restored area.

It’s like it never happened: an example of oil paint cleaning.

Closeup of the restored painting.

Closeup of the restored painting.

We hoped you enjoyed these examples of oil paint cleaning from Alchemy Fine Art Restorers. For more amazing saves, browse the blogs for Alchemy Samples. In particular, see The Sailor’s Return.

Contact Alchemy: If you own an object in need of professional attention, make an appointment with Alchemy Fine Art Restorers in Stuart, FL. Estimates are always free and we even provide local pickup and delivery!

Owner: Kate Wood; Phone: (772) 287-0835; Email:



Evoking The Good Fairy: Repairing a Metal Statuette

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Alchemy’s Kate Wood recently restored a broken metal statuette called The Good Fairy.

This small sculpture was snapped in half.

This small sculpture was snapped in half.

This popular statuette dating from 1916 was manufactured by Jessie McCutcheon Raleigh of Chicago and is just under twelve inches tall. Originally, the piece had a bronze finish, but the piece Kate repaired had been painted white. The designer for this work was Josephine Kern. Once Kate repaired it, the figure’s grace emerged.


The Good Fairy repaired.

The Good Fairy repaired.


An unusual trait for this piece is that it is androgynous: one side is male, the other female.


The girl side.


Fairy Face

The androgynous face.


The boy side.








According to Jessie McCutcheon Raleigh, the statue symbolized, “A good fairy that shall be grace and innocence and sunshine, that shall smile back in the the sad hearts of the old world, that shall spur people on to their best and in that way bring them good luck.”


The small statue became so popular during WWI that ‘Good Fairy Clubs’ were formed.

The Good Fairy

Repairing a metal statuette is extremely rewarding when the history is as fascinating The Good Fairy!

L.M. Montgomery, beloved author of Anne of Green Gables, wrote a poem inspired by this statue:

Message of the Good Fairy  

I spring from the spray on the tip of the crest
Of the billows from out of the blue,
I am bringing a message that says you are blest
By the love that your friends bear for you.
If my arms were as long as the wings of the wind
And I’d stretch them wide away,
I never could hold all the blessings I’m told
Your friends are wishing today.
As long as I stand with this smile on my face
And my arms outstretched so high,
If you’ll think of the friend that sent me to you,
You can never be blue if you try.
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