The Australian Girl looks a healthy specimen of young Antipodean womanhood: fit, bronzed, and wielding a tennis racket.
Look closer, and you’ll see her skin’s cracked, and she’s starting to pucker, bulge, and warp alarmingly.
The Reclining Nude’s virtue is slightly tarnished. Perhaps it’s her habit of lying starkers and recumbent in abstract expressionist poses.
Both ladies need beauty treatment.
Fortunately, the Packsaddle group have adopted them – and five other paintings in NERAM’s collection that need conservation.
“Packsaddle are enthusiastic collectors of art,” member Glenda Kupczyk-Romanczuk said.
“We have to accept a responsibility for conserving what we've bought in the past, and what we're planning to buy in the future. It's a great treat to buy a new work, but seeing dirty or torn works restored to some of their former glory is another treat for us."
Using proceeds from their October fundraising exhibition, the group has adopted $13,680 worth of paintings: Leist's Australian Girl for $8400; Tony Tuckson's Reclining Nude for $1560; Louis Icart's Thais for $960; Frank Mahony's Morning Ride, and Malcolm Warner's Bay, Lord Howe Island for $840 each; George Lambert's Silent Mary for $660; and Walter Withers's Stooks for $420.
The adoptions are part of NERAM’s Adopt-an-Artwork program, where the public can sponsor items in the gallery’s holdings to be preserved from the ravages of time.
“We're very excited and grateful for that level of support of the program,” NERAM director Rachael Parsons said.
“One of Packsaddle's key focuses has been acquiring new works for the collection through their fundraising exhibition and program, but it has been very exciting to see them get so involved in taking care of our current collection.”
Leist’s Australian Girl and Tuckson’s Reclining Nude are on display in NERAM’s new “Adopt-An-Artwork” exhibition, which runs until February.
The exhibition contains both works that have been conserved, and those that need to be, as well as a display of conservation tools, and explanations of preservation needs.
“Everything about the environment is potentially harmful over a long period of time to art works,” Ms Parsons said.
Light, fluctuations in temperature and humidity, handling, and pests can all affect artwork.
"There are some works that without conservation aren't really viable to be shown anymore," Ms Parsons said.
That’s where the Adopt an Artwork program comes in.
“Having 5000 works in our collection,” Ms Parsons said, “we have a great privilege but also responsibility to make sure that those works exist well into the future for other people to be able to see and enjoy them. This program is all about ensuring that legacy of this collection.”
Since the program launched in 2015, the public has adopted 93 works, worth $10.2 million, at a cost of nearly $235,000.
Depending on the size of work and complexity, adoption prices can range from $250 to several thousand.
Groups such as Packsaddle, Friends of NERAM, Rotary, or even friends who particularly like a painting, adopt big works with complex preservation needs.
Paintings and large paper works are sent down to Sydney for International Conservation Services to preserve.
NERAM’s collections manager Jennifer Taylor conserves smaller works on paper.
"We don't restore works,” Ms Taylor said. “We try to stabilize the works so that it can be returned to as close to the original as is possible, without undertaking any treatments that are invasive and will permanently change the work.”
Once the work comes back, NERAM invites the adopters to see the difference conservation treatment made. Their sponsorship is also noted on the label – a way of achieving immortality in a small way.
“If you adopt an art work, you become part of that artwork's history and story,” Ms Parsons said.
“We very much want the community to be involved. This program relies on community support to exist, and so we want people to be pat of the story.
“If you care about our collection, or are excited about a particular artwork, everyone is able to adopt something that they think is either important to them, or that they would really like to see preserved for the future.”
The Adopt-An-Artwork exhibition runs at NERAM until February 3, 2019. Jennifer Taylor will give a talk on conserving artworks on December 20.
For more information on the Adopt-an-Artwork program, visit: http://www.neram.com.au/support/donations/adopt-an-artwork/. Their Operation Preservation blog (http://nerammuseum.wixsite.com/conservation) covers preservation treatments artworks receive.