Cleaning Badham's Portrait


Lining the walls of the Great Hall at the University of Sydney are 21 large portraits of the Chancellor’s and important figures of the University of Sydney’s history. This month the 1875 portrait of Reverend Charles Badham (1813-1884) by Giulio Anivitti received a good cleaning from specialist paintings conservator Alan Byrne.

Allan has over three decade’s experience and has worked at National Library of Australia, Australian War Memorial, Art Gallery of South Australia and the National Gallery of Australia. He is well known and respected in the industry, and has worked with Alayne Alvis, our staff conservator on many different projects.
Although Alan normally joins us to work on paintings in our art collection, recently he worked with us in preparing the two Egyptian coffins for display in the Nicholson Museum exhibition Death Magic. This work included securing loose gesso fragments and some in-painting. This month he was up a ladder with Reverend Charles Badham portrait.

The portrait of Badham is large, measuring 2.4 metres high and 1.5 metres wide and has a heavy elaborate frame. For this reason Allan accessed the painting in situ using a ladder. Cleaning a painted surface can be a delicate and complex exercise. The method and materials used must be enough to remove the dirt, but gentle enough so that it does not remove any of the paint. For this project Allan was able to use distilled water applied with cotton wool because the paint surface was well protected by the layers of varnish that the artist had applied in 1875.

Reverend Badham was the Professor of Classics and Logic at the University of Sydney from 1867-1883. The Badham building on the Camperdown campus is named after him, as is Badham Street in Woolloomooloo. Badham’s portrait sits alongside some of the earliest portraits in the Hall, including that of Sir Charles Nicholson, founder of the Nicholson Museum, painted in 1859. The portraits are arranged along the walls in chronological order with the most recent portrait of Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir, painted in 2012.

Badham’s newly cleaned and conserved portrait, along with 21 portraits from the University Art collection can be viewed in the Great Hall in the Main Quadrangle, University of Sydney Camperdown Campus.