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The Restoration of Arthur Quartley’s “The Queen’s Birthday”

March 8, 2022

3 minute read

Lowy’s Homage to the Queen…
The Restoration of Arthur Quartley’s
“The Queen’s Birthday”

Arthur Quartley, The Queen’s Birthday, May 24th, Port of NY, Oil on Canvas, 44 1/2 x 77 1/2 x 1 1/4″


The Queen’s Birthday, May 24th, Port of New York is a spectacular work by American painter Arthur Quartley painted in 1883 and purchased by the Layton Art Collection Inc. The piece, monumental in Quartley’s oeuvre, shows off his mastery as a marine painter.

After noticing some signs of aging and visible discoloration, the Layton Art Collection Inc engaged the services of Lowy to treat The Queen’s Birthday. All that remained of the original frame was a front liner that had unfortunately been painted white so a frame would also be needed.

Previously, our team had the immense pleasure of helping the Layton Art Collection, Inc launch its 125th Anniversary at the Milwaukee Art Museum in Wisconsin. Most notably, we conducted the framing of William-Adolphe Bouguereau’s Homer and His Guide from the museum’s collection. We were impressed by founder Frederick Layton’s selection of works and were looking forward to bringing another piece from his collection to life.

The Layton Collection, Inc

 The Layton Collection, Inc was founded by Frederick Layton as a gift to the city of Milwaukee in 1888; it was Milwaukee’s first permanent art gallery. Begun with an endowment of $100,000 and thirty-eight works of art, the collection grew to over 200 pieces of art at the time of Layton’s death.

Originally displayed at the Victorian Layton Gallery, one of America’s first single patron art institutions, the collection moved to the Eero Saarinen-designed Milwaukee Art Center in 1957. That organization later became the Milwaukee Art Museum. Today, the Layton Art Collection, Inc works with its primary partner, the Milwaukee Art Museum to ensure that these foundational works and cultural touchstones for the community are available for the benefit of the public.

Photograph of Layton Collection. The Queen’s Birthday, May 24th, Port of NY seen in the bottom right corner in its original frame.

The Queen’s Birthday
was originally purchased by Frederick Layton from the artist’s estate. The piece was deaccessioned and sold in June of 1960. Today, the trustees were thrilled to purchase the painting for the permanent collection, hoping to conserve and frame it so that it could be exhibited once again as part of the Layton Collection.

The Restoration and Framing

Before Lowy Framing

Executed with oil on canvas, the painting depicts a busy day in New York Harbor on the occasion of Queen Victoria’s birthday. The canvas currently had an improper lining and weak tacking edges along with a discolored synthetic varnish and overpaint whose discoloration had become visible to the eye.

Lowy conservators determined that because the tacking edges of the painting were weak and torn, they were no longer able to support the painting and caused it to sag; the canvas needed to be supported with an additional linen canvas and restretched properly. To correct the areas of discoloration, the existing varnish and overpainting were removed;  minor damages were selectively inpainted and then given a coating of new synthetic varnish for protection. The result? A brighter, more homogenous surface and stable canvas support.

After Lowy Framing and Restoration

In order to further return this painting back to its former glory, our team reviewed old photographs of the painting hanging in the original Layton Art Gallery.

Based on these photographs, Lowy recreated the original prodigious gilt composition frame suitable to the painting’s grandeur. The newly crafted frame was built around the original liner with the profile and width calculated from the original photograph. This frame was typical of the tastes of the late 19th century in America featuring a sanded cove, continuous outer leaf and berry, and front egg and dart. The frame was finished in 23 karat gold leaf over red bole with a similar patina to the original.

The painting appears now as it did for its inaugural exhibition at the Layton Gallery.