Postgraduate Diploma in the Conservation of Easel Paintings
The study of the conservation of easel paintings is a 3-year full-time course and leads to the qualification of a postgraduate diploma. Its interdisciplinary nature brings together art history, fine arts and natural sciences, and applicants usually have a BA or equivalent degree in any of these subjects. The student body is international, with a yearly intake limited to 5, which makes the teacher-student ratio exceptionally high. The competitive nature of the course leads to an equally exceptionally high degree of employment upon graduation, in both the most reputable institutions and private conservation studios in the world, such as the National Gallery, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Getty, the National Trust, and the Royal Collection.
In the first year, the emphasis is on the development of visual, practical and intellectual skills. Seminars cover the following topics: artists’ materials and techniques including replica-making; the deterioration of paintings and preventative conservation; documentation and technical examination; methods and materials of painting conservation; research and critical thinking skills. Students with a BA in art history or the fine arts take chemistry classes, while students with a degree in natural science attend art history classes. Time is divided equally between the classroom and studio.
The second year centres on developing frameworks for decision-making. Teaching is primarily in the studio, working on paintings on canvas or panels from all periods. Students apply problem-solving skills grounded in theoretical understanding and art historical research to specific treatments. Topics from the first year are studied in greater depth, such as the technical analysis of artists’ materials; painting techniques of modern and contemporary painters; structural treatments; and approaches to cleaning. The second year also includes visits to conservation studios and scientific departments as well as the opportunity to participate in “Painting Pairs”, where students collaborate with art history students on the research of a particular painting.
In the first term of the third year, students complete a 10.000 word-long diploma thesis. The research projects often achieve such high standards that they are published or presented at international conferences. In addition, students gain such command of the theoretical and technical frameworks of conservation that they are now able to apply their knowledge and skills independently. Second- and third-year students also go on study trips abroad to centres of excellence and benefit both from the active research culture in the department itself and at the Courtauld Institute at large.
On graduating, students will be:
+ Able to address the complexity of easel painting conservation.
+ Knowledgeable about artists’ materials and techniques from the medieval to the contemporary period.
+ Be proficient in communicating achievements through presentations.
+ Highly employable practitioners in painting conservation and conservation science.