How a Cumbrian company carries out major art restorations on some of world's most important pieces

Reporter Tim Backshall meets Chris Bull, owner of the Fine Art Restoration Company in Carlisle.

A Cumbrian firm is carrying out restoration works on some of the most valuable pieces of artwork and furniture in the country. 

Thousands of paintings are being carefully repaired by a specialist team of restorers from the Fine Art Restoration Company, based in Carlisle.

Among the items they've worked on is a piece by Banksy that was previously on display in Amsterdam. The owner of the Fine Art Restoration Company, Chris Bull, says Cumbria is an ideal location for the company to be based.

"Nationally and internationally, there is a lot of demand for specialist conservation work,” explains Mr Bull.

“But in order to do that you need space and the right kind of people and we've found that Cumbria is a great place, because you have space for your team to be based and live as well."

The team is currently working on one of the oldest pieces it has ever dealt with; a work dated to the 1500’s, which was very badly damaged when it arrived to the team’s warehouse. 

"It's a Flemish painting, presumably painted in Antwerp," says Easel Painting Conservator, Sophie Kean.

"It's Mary Magdalene with an ointment jar from a painting that's usually displayed in a Berlin museum. When it arrived with us it actually had what we would term overpainting, which is non-original paint that's been put over original details.” 

Another conservator, Anton Nezenets is from Ukraine and had only been working with the Fine Art Restoration team for a matter of days before war broke out in his home country.

"Chris and his company, they helped me for a few months," he said. "They paid for my accommodation, they gave me work to pay for meals to survive, and to keep studying at Northumbria University. At the beginning I had around £30 in my bank account so this help was super important for me." 

Just like each member of the restoration team, every painting has its own story to tell - a portrait recently received from Florida was badly affected by Hurricane Ian in September2022. The impact of the water damage was so severe that it is likely to take several months to restore. 

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