Help us care for and preserve the national collection
The North-West Passage by Sir John Everett Millais, Bt is one of the original 65 works gifted to the nation by Sir Henry Tate to establish the Gallery in 1897. It explores the theme of the unnavigable sea route round North America, which was thought to provide a passage to the East.
Thank you very much for your generous donations, which have helped enable crucial conservation work to be carried out on this important historical artwork, now on display in the Artist and Empire exhibition at Tate Britain – a major exhibition of art associated with the British Empire from the 16th century to the present day.
Crucial conservation treatments needed
Throughout its history, this important painting has been displayed frequently and loaned extensively causing the varnish to become discoloured and patchy, resulting in a deadening of the colours and the loss of the illusion of depth.
Following a thorough examination in late 2014, the following treatments were identified as necessary:
- Examining the work under ultra-violet light and x-ray
- Improving corner distortions
- Investigating possible repair of lining canvas
- Mending tear in the canvas
- Surface cleaning
- Testing for varnish removal, and thereafter possible removal of varnish
- Brush varnishing
- Filling and retouching small losses to the paint surface
- Frame restoration (an additional 26 day project)
Vibrant colours revealed
Conservation work has helped to remove the varnish layers in test areas, revealing vibrant colours and depth in the painting. See for yourself how the colours and depth have been revealed:
Our conservation team are responsible for preserving and caring for 70,000 works of art by over 3,000 artists in Tate’s collection, if you would like to support the conservation of other artworks please donate today. Every gift, no matter the size, makes a difference.