A €10m artwork by Claude Monet that was all but destroyed when a man put his fist through it is once again hanging where it belongs after a painstaking restoration.
The Impressionist painting was ripped apart in June 2012 while it hung in the National Gallery of Ireland.
After a delicate, 18-month restoration, Argenteuil Basin With A Single Sailboat, dating from 1874, has been restored to near its former glory and is back on the walls.
National Gallery director Sean Rainbird likened the meticulous repair to microscopic needlework. “It was huge damage, shocking damage,” he said.
“This project to restore and conserve one of the gallery’s most popular Impressionist works of art is testament to the outstanding expertise and dedication of our professional team of conservators.”
The oil painting — the only Monet in Ireland’s national collection — is relatively small at 55cm by 65cm, but regarded as a classic with its own significance.
It was painted at a time when Monet was using a boat as a floating studio on the Seine to paint scenes of the river and its banks.
It is now being housed behind protective glass — a low reflective, ultraviolet-filtered climate box with a humidity buffer.
Monet painted the scene in his own distinctive brushstroke style and contemporary colours in the same year that the first Impressionist exhibition was held in Paris.
The painting was bequeathed to the State by the dramatist and politician Edward Martyn, who bought it on the advice of his cousin, the writer George Moore, who lived in Paris and knew the Impressionists.
The repair work first involved gathering hundreds of microscopic fragments of paint which broke off the canvas in the vandalism; most measured 0.3mm to 1mm across.
Some 7% of the tiny pieces could not be saved after some split into powdery dust and were too tiny to reattach in the jigsaw restoration.
Conservationists removed the painting from its frame and delicately sewed together thousands of fine threads which made up the canvas.
Under a microscope and using surgical tools and special heaters, they reattached fine materials with a specially formulated adhesive which has been used in similar work in Germany for the last 40 years.
Varnish covering the oil paint was also cleaned, giving it a brighter and fresher feel, closer to what the original artwork looked like 140 years ago.
The canvas has been lined across the back to provide additional support to the repair work.
Simone Mancini, the gallery’s head of conservation, said: “The National Gallery’s approach to the conservation of Monet’s painting was primarily dictated by the need to retain the integrity and originality of the painting and by applying the principles of reversibility, clarity and minimum intervention.”
The restoration was supported by BNP Paribas.
The funding allowed for the hiring of a Monet Paintings Conservation Fellow, Pearl O’Sullivan, specialist tools and materials, research, and the publication of an online education resource on the gallery’s French 19th collection.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved