Postgraduate Diploma in the Conservation of Easel Paintings - The Courtauld Institute of Art

Postgraduate Diploma in the Conservation of Easel Paintings

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Postgraduate Diploma in the Conservation of Easel Paintings

Postgraduate Diploma in the Conservation of Easel Paintings

The conservation of paintings is an inter-disciplinary subject and is open to graduates in art, art history or the natural sciences.

The three-year course is a rigorous programme that combines teaching conservation theory and practice, using both subject-based learning and problem-solving practical work.

The course content is relevant to all aspects of painting conservation and how it is placed in the broadest context of historical and contemporary practice. These include interventive conservation practice, preventive conservation and collections management, conservation science and conservation research.

On graduating, students will be:

  • Fully aware of the practical and varied issues surrounding easel painting conservation
  • Knowledgeable about a specific artist or period techniques
  • Professional practitioners in easel conservation

On graduation, you will be equipped with the knowledge, skills and attitudes to work within a professional framework in either the public or the independent sector.

Key facts

Status Full time
5 students
Duration 3 years
Language skills English
Application Deadline 15 January 2019

Postgraduate Diploma in the Conservation of Easel Paintings

You can download a pdf version of our prospectus below.

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With about fifteen students in total, each working on two or three paintings, the Department is an exceptionally busy place and a lively forum for the exchange of ideas and exploration of treatment options, and this is actively encouraged through regular “work in progress” meetings.

Detailed information about the aims and objectives of the course can be found in the full programme specification below:

 Conservation of Easel Paintings course handbook

First year

The first year provides a foundation of knowledge, visual and practical skills on which students will build over the duration of the course.

Classes and lectures cover the following topics: the history of artists’ materials and techniques; the deterioration of paintings and preventive conservation/environmental control; documentation and technical examination of paintings; methods and materials of conservation and conservation practice.

Time is divided approximately equally between classroom and studio. Practical work starts with the group making replicas before students work individually on paintings under continuous supervision. This will commence from the end of the first term.

Second year

The second year focuses on developing knowledge, skills and approaches.

Teaching is primarily in the studio, with projects designed to develop an understanding of conservation practice. Students develop problem-solving skills grounded in theoretical understanding and explore how to apply them in practice to a specific painting. Students work independently under continuous supervision.

Students also work in a team on an environmental survey which might focus on a problematic room, house, gallery or other space where paintings are displayed. At the end of the survey, students produce a report and practical recommendations.

Topics from the first year are studied in greater depth, including the identification and analysis of artists’ materials and techniques; developments in the structural conservation of paintings on canvas and on panel; new methods of cleaning paintings and varnish removal.

In order to place the studies in the broadest context of historical and contemporary practice, there are visits to conservation studios and scientific departments in the national museums and the independent sector.

In the second and third years, there are study trips abroad to centres of excellence.

Third year

The third year focuses on research and increasingly advanced problem- solving, planning and critical judgement.

Students are expected to gain command of the theoretical, conceptual and technical frameworks of conservation and be able to apply their knowledge and skills independently within a professional ethical framework.

A research project in the first term provides an opportunity to specialise in a particular aspect of conservation and prepare for a career path in professional conservation. Topics may be technical, philosophical, analytical or practical.

Projects are publicly presented at an annual conference (Gerry Hedley Student Symposium) that brings together students from all three programmes in the UK that study the conservation of easel paintings. The projects often achieve such high standards that they are published in conservation journals or at international conferences.

During the Spring and Summer Terms students return to conservation practical work and the completion of their treatments. By the third year students should be able to take a lead in formulating treatment proposals and discussing alternatives but the level of supervision from previous years is maintained.

The Postgraduate Diploma is assessed on the following written work:

  • Practical conservation assessment (end of Year 1)
  • Exams in either science or art history, dependent on the student’s first degree (end of Year 1)
  • A one week “take away” essay paper, taken by all students (end of Year 1)
  • Practical conservation assessment (year 2)
  • Research dissertation of 10,000 words (end of Year 3)
  • Practical conservation assessment (end of Year 3)

NB. At the end of year one, students must achieve a satisfactory standard in their practical work and pass the exams in order to continue.

Bachelor’s Degree – Students will normally have achieved a good 2.1, considered to be an overall average 65% or above.

We accept overseas qualifications equivalent to a 2.1 in a UK first degree (e.g. US applicants should have a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or above).

If you hold a qualification from outside of the UK, please feel free to contact the Academic Registry; however, please be aware that our staff are unable to confirm whether you will be invited to interview, as candidates are judged on the strength of their applications as a whole.



All applicants are expected to have an effective knowledge of English, both spoken and written. For applicants whose first language is not English, we require proof of English proficiency – for details, please see the English Language Requirements page.


2019/20 Fees Available Here

Fees are subject to change each academic year. Fee info, including what qualifies as home, EU, and overseas fees, can be found here.

Financial support for your studies

Find information about loans, grants, and bursaries to support you during your studies at The Courtauld here.

Apply for this course

Apply for this course or download a prospectus for more information.

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