There is no layer of a painting where we are fully satisfied with our present understanding of its material structure, and its deterioration over time. Most research carried out today into the materials of paintings concentrates on their properties in order to further understand the consequences of conservation treatments - both immediate and long term - and the effects of earlier treatments. This book contributes significantly to the selection of appropriate and controllable cleaning methods for varnished and unvarnished paint surfaces. It is a distillation of many years' experience of formulating a cleaning treatment for a given object.
While the case histories describe nineteenth- and twentieth-century paintings and furniture exclusively, and may emphasise the cleaning of never-varnished surfaces to an extent unusual in some conservators' experience, the general principles are applicable to the surface cleaning of both traditional and modern paint media. These, in fact, may be found on sculptures, ethnographic materials, and even textile and paper supports, as well as on paintings, gilded surfaces and furniture. Aqueous methods are certainly worth considering for those surfaces which cannot be cleaned safely by the more traditional methods based on the use of solvents.
Wolbers's contribution to cleaning methodology is the most significant of the last century. This book will bring his approach to a wider audience, and it will be interesting to see whether, as a result, gels will be used more often as an alternative, or even as a substitute, for cleaning using more traditional techniques.
Studies in Conservation 46 (2001) 221
[Cleaning Painted Surfaces] is crammed with useful information and inspiring insights, and it is probably the most thorough book ever written on a conservation issue which continues to cause controversy.
The Strad Magazine (February 2002) 205