Paintings by Renowned Artist Thomas Baines Successfully Restored and Preserved for Current and Future Generations to Enjoy

Albany Museum

Nedbank is proud to announce that four recently restored artworks by Thomas Baines, a renowned landscape artist whose paintings capture scenes of 19th-century southern African history, are back on display at the Albany Museum in Makhanda in the Eastern Cape. The four paintings, which were created by Baines between 1848 and 1849, provide a window into Grahamstown in the mid-1800s as they depict iconic views of the area, its early streetscapes, and their progression. Due to their significant cultural and historic value, these paintings, which belong to Nedbank, have been on loan to the Albany Museum for the public to enjoy since 1977. To further safeguard these precious paintings and preserve them for the long term, Nedbank facilitated the restoration of the works by one of South Africa’s most skilled art conservators, Lucy Blumenthal, in 2022.

Managing Executive of Nedbank Retail and Business Banking Ciko Thomas says: ‘Nedbank believes that corporate art collections can play an important role in preserving and showcasing South Africa’s artistic heritage as well as making art accessible to the public. We are grateful to the Albany Museum for having cared for these works for nearly five decades. We value our longstanding partnership as it has made it possible for these rare works to be viewed by the community of Makhanda and its visitors. We are especially pleased to have them restored and preserved for current and future generations to enjoy.’

Lucy Blumenthal, who has assessed and restored some of the world’s most valuable art pieces for local and international auctioneers, galleries, museums, and private collectors, says that considering their age, the four Baines paintings were in good condition.

The restoration process involved carefully removing each artwork from its frame, checking its structure, assessing it in the front and reverse, cleaning it, and doing touch-ups, structural repair, and moisture treatment.

Blumenthal says: ‘Thomas Baines artworks are a rare sighting – you don’t often get to see them. So, while I have worked on a Baines before, to work on four of his artworks at the same time was a treat. It is amazing to see how quickly Grahamstown (as it was known then) developed during that period. I could see it in the changing landscapes depicted in the artworks and the progression in the materials used.’

Blumenthal says that due to signs of past restorations from a time before current advanced techniques, she removed dust and dirt particles as well as the materials of previous restorations, such as thick varnishes. This process returned the works to as much of their original material integrity as was possible. Areas that needed touch-ups had to be painted carefully and precisely in a manner that respected and maintained Thomas Baines’s work.

Dr Phumlani Cimi, Head of the Albany Museum, the second oldest museum in South Africa, says: ‘The Albany Museum extends its gratitude to Nedbank for restoring these artworks that have been the museum’s gems for decades. We’re truly indebted to Nedbank for conservation work, which surely guarantees the long-term preservation of the artworks. These artworks provide a window into the artistry of the past century. Employing the open-air technique, the paintings visualised Makhanda in the 19th century. They inspire a current generation of artists to create works in which nature is appreciated. Additionally, they make art lovers reflect on human activities that pollute and preserve the environment.’

To see these Thomas Baines artworks, visit the History Museum building at the Albany Museum at 40 Somerset Street, Makhanda, Eastern Cape. The Albany Museum is open Mondays to Fridays from 09:00 to 16:30.