Categotry Archives: Alchemy Samples

Please enjoy these samples of conservation, restoration, and repair by Kate Wood of Alchemy Fine Art Restorers. These samples constitute a professional portfolio and their presentation is protected by law. All photos appearing on are the property of Kate Wood.

Frances Langford Portrait Reveals Story of Early Fame

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When curator Chessy Ricca of Stuart’s Elliott Museum contacted Alchemy Fine Art Restorers to bring a portrait of Frances Langford (1913-2005) back to its full measure of beauty, it gave Kate Wood of Alchemy Fine Arts the opportunity to restore a painting that embodies multiple aspects of America’s entertainment heritage.

It also hit close to home. Although Langford entertained fans around the world, her heart was fond of Florida; and two decades after her death, she remains a beloved figure on the Treasure Coast.

Frances Langford by Charles E. Rubino before being professionally conserved by Alchemy Fine Art Restorers.
Portrait of Frances Langford before conservation.
Airbrushed portrait of radio and movie star Frances Langford after professional conservation by Kate Wood of Alchemy Fine Art Restorers.
After cleaning and repairs by Kate Wood.

Kate Wood carefully conserving other fine art paintings from the Elliott.

“It was an honor to help save this lovely painting. The tears and pressure dings were so deep that the canvas had to be removed from its stretcher bars and lined with a fresh canvas to stabilize it. After a deep clean and some major repairs, Frances Langford’s beauty and star power really emerged.”

Kate Wood, owner and lead restorer at Alchemy Fine Arts

The Purpose Behind the Painting

Examining the portrait, Kate recognized that it was designed as a magazine cover. Not only was there plenty of blank space around the main subject, but the artist also left pencil strokes along the canvas edge to mark the placement of design elements.

Cover illustration is a familiar field to patrons of the Elliott. The museum featured a comprehensive collection of similarly purposed works by Norman Rockwell and his mentor, J.C. Leyendecker in 2022-2023. That show helped foster an appreciation of the role magazine illustration played in the evolution of fine art technique. The above portrait of Frances Langford fits into that narrative, not only as an example of early airbrush work, but also as a precursor to the pop art portraiture of later artists.

However, because it was unsigned, the specific artist and publication behind this painting remained a mystery. To help solve it, Kate enlisted her husband — writer Greg Leatherman — to fill in the gaps. His research revealed interesting details about this portrait in relation to Frances Langford’s ascent to fame.

Langford and Rudy Vallée in a publicity still from the Miami Herald on 21 Jun 1931.

Discovering a Star

Born in Lakeland, Florida, Frances Langford’s career took off early in 1931 — when she was still just sixteen years old — after famed crooner Rudy Vallée heard her on a Tampa radio station. The affable megastar invited Langford to sing on his radio program at WNBC New York (chaperoned by her mother). Aside from a knack for introducing new talent to his massive audience, Vallée was also a keen advisor who guided Langford through early business decisions, such as turning down the first offer she received and holding out for better terms.

Langford’s captivating voice and physical beauty made her a crowd pleaser. Typically backed by radio orchestras, she performed on stations across America, and in December 1933, she hosted her own radio special on WNBC. It was the first of many.

Discovering an Artist

Frances Langford was featured on the cover of Radio Guide in June 1935. Founded by the Hearst publishing empire, the useful guide combined radio schedules with celebrity news. Today’s readers know this influential weekly by its modern name: TV Guide.

Rubino from Air in the Realm of Art; Paasche Bulletin W7-38.

One of countless magazine covers Langford graced, it’s of interest here because it carries the signature of Charles E. Rubino (1896 – 1973). Rubino served as the art director for Hearst Publications in New York for many years and created covers for Radio Guide from at least 1935-1937.

The Italian-born Rubino was not only a talented illustrator, but he also helped change the way magazines looked by demonstrating that the airbrush was perfectly suited to magazine illustration. The artist’s considerable skill with this tool was undoubtably a deciding factor when Radio Guide switched from black and white cover photos to Rubino’s full-color portraits in February 1935. Across the next two years, Radio Guide would feature Langford for three of these covers. As Greg would soon discover, these covers were the keys that would unlock the mystery behind the restored portrait.

Unsigned Langford on the October 31, 1936, cover of Radio Guide.
Langford by C.E. Rubino on the June 08, 1935 cover of Radio Guide.

Charles E. Rubino’s signature from the June 1935 cover of Radio Guide.

Silver Screen Inspiration Behind the Portrait

The painting featured in this post was inspired by one of Langford’s first big movie roles. As a publicity piece, it’s emblematic of how the Golden Age of Radio and the studio system of Hollywood intertwined during the Great Depression.

In the 1930s, performances on both the airwaves and the silver screen were turning singers like Bing Crosby, Dick Powell, Alice Faye, and Rudee Vallée into huge crossover stars. Like them, Langford’s radio success led to her own movie roles. This led to her being one of an elite group of performers awarded stars on the Hollywood Star Walk for both film and radio.

Still from Broadway Melody of 1936.

Having already appeared in a Broadway show and two short films, Langford burst into movie fame in August 1935. That’s when America first saw her perform her signature song, “I’m in the Mood for Love,” in Paramount’s Every Night at Eight. The melodic standard proved so popular that other artists rushed to record their own versions. Several of these charted in 1935, and it’s since been covered by countless performers — but in the hearts of movie lovers, the song will forever be associated with Ms. Langford.

MGM studios built on the publicity around Langford’s performance by casting the young starlet as herself in Broadway Melody of 1936, which was released just seven weeks later. The jazzy musical did well at the box office and was nominated for three Academy Awards. Once again, Frances Langford delivered a fabulous performance.

In light of this success, Radio Guide selected Langford to grace another cover of their publication. This time, the artist used her appearance in Broadway Melody of 1936 as a model. As seen below, it resulted in the painting now housed at the Elliott Museum.

The February 15, 1936, cover of Radio Guide. Frances Langford’s ruby red tuxedo and romantic songs made her the perfect choice for a magazine issued the week of Valentine’s Day.

In her top hat and tails, Frances Langford performs “Broadway Rhythm” in Broadway Melody of 1936.

Everybody Knew Her Name

After The Hit Parade, Radio Guide readers voter Langford their top female star of 1937.

Every radio network and movie studio in America wanted Langford. By the time 1936 ended, she appeared in two more movies for Paramount and another for MGM. She did all this while starring on CBS radio’s Hollywood Hotel, which led to a 1937 supporting role in Warner Brothers’ film version, and a lead role in Republic’s The Hit Parade, which reprised her top hat look.

Even MGM’s Our Gang got in on the Langford craze when two of its child stars sang “I’m In the Mood for Love” in a short comedy that combined elements of Every Night at Eight and Broadway Melody of 1936.

Langford’s Lasting Impact

Radio Guide printed a photogravure of Langford in August 1938.

The portrait restored by Kate Wood was painted at a pivotal point in the career of Frances Langford. Working with the biggest stars of her time, she recorded numerous American standards, appeared in several classic musicals, and made millions laugh and cry. But she was far more than a celebrity.

During World War II, Langford struck an emotional chord with American G.I.’s while performing with Bob Hope’s U.S.O. Troop. She also wrote a Hearst newspapers syndicated column about her visits to wounded soldiers.

Langford’s smoldering voice, natural charm, and elegance fueled her career as a radio host, actor, and singer well-into the 1950s. She was also intelligent. In 1955, as rock and roll took over the radio waves, she went into semi-retirement in Florida where she enjoyed fishing and boating on the Indian River.

In Martin County, Langford is remembered as a generous philanthropist who founded the Outrigger Resort at Jensen Beach in 1961 (along with husband Ralph Evinrude). Thanks to Langford, the resort drew fans (and luminaries) from around the world. She performed there for decades.

See the Restored Portrait

As we communicated these discoveries about how Radio Guide‘s cover portrait of Langford fit into the arc of her early fame, curator Chessy Ricca of Stuart’s Elliott Museum shared some exciting news of her own.

The restored portrait featured in this post will be part of Elliott Museum exhibit celebrating the life of Frances Langford later in 2024. This welcome news comes as no surprise to those who’ve visited the museum’s Outrigger Café and Exhibit, which already features selected objects from her life. We’re curious to see what other forgotten treasures Ms. Ricca finds in the Elliott archives.

As regular patrons of this invaluable institution, the team at Alchemy Fine Art Restorers encourages you to visit this special exhibit and pay tribute to the “Florida Thrush,” aka the “Songbird of the Air,” aka the “Moonglow Girl,” and the “Sweetheart of the Fighting Fronts,” the unforgettable Frances Langford.

Gold Leaf Gilding an Ornate Frame

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Practitioners of the medieval art of alchemy strove to transform lead into gold. While they were unable to prove and repeat this ambitious process, they did perfect the art of gilding – a practice of decorating gold or metal objects with a thin layer of gold-leaf that dates back to the Ancient Egyptians.

Today, people use similar techniques to beautify all sorts of objects. For this particular project, Kate Wood – owner of Alchemy Fine Art Restorers –  first repaired and then oil-gilded an ornate antique frame in 22-karat yellow gold leaf. We hope you enjoy viewing these photos of a miraculous transformation!

The Painstaking Gilding Process

The frame shown had been stored in a humid environment and flood-damaged, which caused the plaster foundation that holds the ornament to the wood to fail throughout the frame.

The first step Kate took was to run her hands over the entire frame surface to located all loose ornament and glue it back into place before any more of this already damaged frame could be lost. Because there was no comparable ornament, the corner shown in this example could not be molded and had to be hand-carved by Kate before gilding.

The result was a fully restored gilt frame with an authentic finish.

Missing ornament and degraded gilding on an antique frame.

Missing ornament and degraded gilding on an antique frame.

Carved plaster ornament repairs.

Carved plaster ornament repairs. Sometimes Kate molds these types of repairs. In this case she carved the plaster.

Base coat of priming color to highlight the warmth of gold leaf.

Base coat of priming color to highlight the warmth of gold leaf.

When oil gilding,  the surface is primed with paint to seal the pores and provide a smooth non-porous surface to which a type of slow-drying oil can be applied. This oil provides an adhesive surface for the gold leaf.

Red highlights mimic the look of clay bole.

Red highlights mimic the look of clay bole. Clay bole is used in water gilding.

Finished repaired and gilded frame.

Repaired and gilded frame.

After gilding, the gold is typically toned down to create an antiqued finish matching the tastes and preferences of the client. For example, to emphasize three-dimensional depth, a light brushing of artist’s oils in sienna and burnt umber (e.g., Japan Colors) could be applied to the recesses to add shadow and warmth.

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:


Restoring Joy Postle: A Florida Treasure Rediscovered

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Kate Wood with the mural. Photo credit: Thomas Winter.

In the spring of 2015, Alchemy Fine Art Restorers conserved an historically important mural at the Woman’s Club of Stuart. Painted by Joy Postle in 1962, the vibrant work suffered from discoloration and paint loss. As a focal point of the Banyan Room, a meeting space for Martin County, Florida residents, it was vital that this work be restored to its former glory.

Kate Wood, Alchemy’s lead restorer, knew the work would be arduous, but rewarding. Cleaning and restoring this massive work required standing on a ladder for hours at a time across several days. Much of Kate’s initial effort went to cleaning the entire mural. After that, Kate restored areas of paint loss. As always, Kate used modern, reversible techniques for all restoration.  Details from Kate Wood’s restoration, along with some background about the artist and links to further resources are presented below.

The Glamour Bird: Joy Postle


Joy Postle painted the natural beauty of Florida.

The mural was created by Florida nature artist Joy Postle (1896-1989). Born and raised in Chicago, Joy attended the Art Institute of Chicago. Along with her journalist husband (Robert Blackstone), Joy Postle arrived in Florida in 1934 after a period of traveling around the United States in a home-made trailer. The two camped all over Florida, which inspired Postle to paint scenes from nature.

In 1937, Postle joined the WPA Art Project. Three years later, she debuted her “Glamour Birds” act in which bird song and music accompanied Postle as she painted birds and educated her audience. Postle and her husband settled in a home and studio on Lake Rose, 20 miles east of Gainesville, in 1942.

An exhibit of Joy Postle’s paintings will be presented November 2-30, 2015 at the University of Central Florida’s John C. Hitt Library.

A believer in bringing art to the public as a teacher and a performer, Postle also created countless murals for commercial buildings and homes, from Texas to North Carolina and especially in Florida. While many are known, surviving murals by Postle continue to be identified and recorded in Central Florida.

Areas of paint loss can be seen in this photo of Kate Wood restoring the mural.

In a May 2015 blogpost titled, The Ghost of Joy Postle and the Everglades Mural, Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch wrote about the same mural Alchemy recently restored, “As a kid, I spent numerous hours at the Woman’s Club of Stuart. What made the biggest impression on me was a beautiful mural featuring birds of the Everglades— of which Stuart is part through the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.”


Paint loss visible pre-restoration.

Detail of cleaned and restored mural.


According to local historian Alice L. Luckhardt, the Banyan Room mural wasn’t the only mural Joy Postle painted in Stuart, FL.  A mural painted in 1948 graced a wall in the original Citizens Bank (now Duffy’s Restaurant). Two more (both painted in 1961) were displayed in what is now the Seacoast Bank at Colorado and US 1, but these are now (as of September 2015)  covered by paneling.  Luckhardt adds that “five original individual wood framed paintings (c. 1959) depicting an egret, spoonbill, ducks, cypress swamp and a Florida sunset in the pine woods were displayed at the school cafeteria in Stuart, paid for from profits of ice cream sales at the lunchroom. However, the only one still visual today is the one done for the Woman’s Club.”

Aside from the changing ownership of these buildings, it’s likely that another reason none of these images are available for viewing today is their physical deterioration. Luckily, the mural at the Woman’s Club has been restored and may be enjoyed by visitors to the Banyan Room for generations to come.

A section of the cleaned and restored mural. The artist’s signature is visible at the bottom, just left of center.

Further Resources

A gallery of Joy Postle paintings is available via the University of Central Florida Libraries.

Learn more about Joy Postle at the Florida Fine Art Blog.

About the Woman’s Club of Stuart: The Woman’s Club of Stuart is a proud member of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs. The Club is united by a dedication to community improvement through volunteering, raising funds, and reaching out to others while experiencing lifelong learning and friendships for all members. Although there is diversity in the ages, interest, and experiences of the Club’s members, they are united by a common goal to community improvement through volunteer service. With over a century of tradition, the Woman’s Club of Stuart is the oldest organization in Martin County. It’s influence includes providing scholarships to young women from Martin County high schools, helping needy families, supporting academic endeavors, and worthwhile charities enriching the local culture.

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A detail from Kate Wood’s restoration of Joy Postle’s mural on display at the Woman’s Club of Stuart.

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Kate Wood of Alchemy Fine Art Restorers cleans a mural located in the Woman’s Club of Stuart.


Wood Shield Restoration

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In partnership with our friends at Pierce-Archer, Alchemy Fine Art Restorers conserved a painted wood shield for Bethesda-by-the-Sea in Palm Beach, Florida. This gorgeous Episcopal church–the oldest in Palm Beach–is on the National Registry of Historical Places.

Bethesda-by-the-Sea dates from 1889, which also makes it the oldest Protestant Church in South Florida. Kate Wood has treated several works of art from the interior of the church over the past five years, but this case was different . . .

Exposed to the elements outside of the Church office for 90 years, the wood shield disintegrated due to dry rot and sun damage to the point of falling to the ground. Alchemy restored this beautiful object to its former glory to be enjoyed by generations to come in the Parish Hall. The church is open to visitors and is well worth the visit. Stop by when you are in Palm Beach.

Please, enjoy these amazing before and after images.


The body of the damaged wood shield during restoration.


The damaged shield after 90 years of Florida weather.

The damaged wood shield after 90 years of Florida weather.


The Restored Shield






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.


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.

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.

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:



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