The text below summarises the conservation records about Ophelia kept at Tate. It details how Ophelia has been looked after since it’s creation until 2003. No records exist before 1947.
Property of the National Gallery. Post-war examination. Ophelia treated for cleavage [lifting of cracked paint and ground from the canvas] and losses in the paint mainly in the foreground filled and retouched.
1962, 7 March
Tate Galley report made, recommending that the painting should be impregnated with beeswax and resin and relined.
1967, 1 May
Ophelia examined prior to loan before it travelled to the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool. The painting was on loan with other works by Millais such as The Order of Release, 1853. Painting had to be faced with wax and tissue paper to prevent flaking on its return journey.
1967, 1 June
Loose-lining canvas removed and replaced with a new canvas and a more effective wax lining carried out. Losses in the area of reeds then filled and retouched in acrylic paint (see image above). The areas that were being restored were filled with chalk and glue, then painted with acrylic to match the colours in the painting. If the conservators used oil paints, like Millais used, the oils would go darker over time, so it would have been difficult to get the right colours.
Re-examined condition found to be unchanged apart from a slight accumulation of surface dirt. Perspex fitted for loan.
Loan agreed for Munich.
1979, October 26
Glass replaced with Perspex for Munich
1987, October 10
No change in condition of painting.
Survey of collections. No apparent change. Glass needs cleaning.
Low reflective glass fitted.
Checked before Norwich loan. Outside transit frame modified to enable painting to be fitted. [Every Tate work has a separate transit frame that fits the exact dimensions of the work of art to protect it when it travels].
Checked on return.
Packed for Washington loan.
Digital images taken and work examined using infra-red reflectography.