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Postgraduate Study

Course closed:

Master of Conservation of Easel Painting is no longer accepting new applications.


This intensively taught course runs over three years (9 terms).

Year 1

Intensive formal theoretical teaching. Core subjects are:

• Historical painting techniques and materials
• Conservation history and theory
• Materials/heritage science: analytical and imaging methods
• Environmental considerations and preventive conservation

Practical instruction:

• The supervised (partial) reconstruction of three historical paintings
• Practical photography and conservation imaging techniques
• Studio teaching at the easel using actual works of art in need of conservation.

Year 2

Intensive studio teaching. Treatments are of increasing complexity and are selected to ensure maximum exposure to a wide range of conservation problems and their solutions.

Seminars and practical sessions on additional subjects such as dendrochronology, frames and framing, modern cleaning methods and retouching techniques. Seminars and workshops given by external lecturers/specialists and engagement with the HKI interns, will ensure that students are aware of new developments and reginal variants in conservation. 

Year 3

Intensive studio teaching as in year 2. The students are now enjoying greater autonomy with lower-level problems and the incremental introduction of higher-level supervised problems. Students select a painting on which they undertake conservation treatment and make an in depth reconstruction using the practical skills and research techniques learned previously, followed by a written research report. 

One to one supervision

Year 1:

10 hours per week on studio and on reconstructions
2 hours per week with course tutor

Years 2 & 3:

8 hours per week in studio
2 hours per week with course tutor

Seminars & classes

There are between 20-40 hours of seminars, lectures and workshops average per term throughout the course.


Year 1:

4 hours per week

Years 2 & 3:

2 hours per week 


8 hours per week of practical  work in year 1, increasing in year 2-3 to 10-12 hours a  week

Small group teaching

2 hours per week in seminar or workshop format.


During Year 2, students spend a 5-6 weeks at the Hamilton Kerr Institute’s Ebury Street studio in London which specialises in structural aspects of painting conservation. Students are provided with a suitable painting in need of major structural conservation work. They study the relevant theory and practice under the supervision and guidance of the Ebury Street conservators. 


Students are given regular feedback throughout the course. In addition to summative assessments, each student is assigned a supervisor for each painting treatment and research project. Supervisors and Tutors complete assessments of all students’ performance at the end of each term


Thesis / Dissertation

Year 3:

A dissertation conservation project (10,000 words) to include a practical component.




Year 2:

2 reports and 4 essays (3,000-words each), two submitted per term. A selected two of the written assignments are combined with oral presentations.

Year 3:

  • a copy of a painting and the reproduction of the artist’s technique and/or materials, accompanied by documentation (5000 words);
  • a portfolio of studio work.

Written examination

Year 1:

3 x 3 hour written exams: Practical Conservation, Science and History of Materials, Theory of Conservation 

Practical assessment

Year 1:

3 x practical examinations: Laboratory/Chemistry, Photography, Examination of a Painting


Studio work is assessed continuously throughout the year. Each student is assigned a supervisor for each painting treatment and research project. Supervisors and Tutors complete assessments of all students’ performance at the end of each term.

At the end of Year 2 the students perform a viva voce exam on one or more of their conservation projects. This will be assessed by internal examiners.

At the end of Year 3 the students perform a viva voce examination on the studio work and written work submitted in the third year.  Submission of final year written work for both research project and the reconstruction is one month before the viva.

Key Information

36 months full-time

Study Mode : Taught

Master of Conservation of Easel Painting

Department of History of Art

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Course on Department Website

Dates and deadlines:

Applications open
Sept. 4, 2023
Application deadline
Jan. 4, 2024
Course Starts
Oct. 1, 2024

Some courses can close early. See the Deadlines page for guidance on when to apply.

Course Funding Deadline
Jan. 4, 2024
Gates Cambridge US round only
Oct. 11, 2023

These deadlines apply to applications for courses starting in Michaelmas 2024, Lent 2025 and Easter 2025.

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