The Department of UP Arts has begun a major, long-term project to conserve over 8 600 unframed works of art on paper from the University of Pretoria (UP) Art Collection. It is well known that the University is the custodian of an extensive art collection, with many items on public exhibition across all nine campuses. However, the unframed works of art (which include prints, etchings, engravings, drawings and watercolours) tend to go unnoticed and generally receive little attention, often being retained in museum storage. This pilot preservation project is being conducted in association with Art Revive, and benefits from the specialist expertise of Sandra Markgraaf, an external art conservator.
The works on paper originate from the Van Gybland-Oosterhoff collection and range from 16th-century engravings to 19th-century European portraits. Donated to UP in 1937, this collection can be considered the first major donation of an art collection. It includes a one-of-a-kind engraved artwork that dates back to 1580, making it the oldest artwork on paper at the University. So far, the preservation process has revealed invaluable provenance information, with 'hidden' sketches, personal hand-written notes and other information on the backs of some of the artworks that were previously mounted and pasted onto board.
This information is contributing to the knowledge about some of the valuable unframed works on paper in the UP Art Collection, as well as facilitating new research.