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Book event: The Back of the Painting

Ticket Information

  • AAG Members: $10.00 each
  • AAG Members Guest : $10.00 each
  • Non-Members: $16.00 each ($15.00 + $1.00 fees)
  • Student: $5.00 each
  • Eventfinda tickets no longer on sale


  • Sun 30 May 2021, 2:00pm–3:00pm



The seal of the Prince of Yugoslavia, the icon that protected persecuted Russians, Monet’s repurposed canvas, the excised first wife, the stolen Tissot…these are the stories found on the backs of paintings in New Zealand art museums.

The authors of 'The Back of the Painting: Secrets and stories from art conservation' – Linda Waters, Jenny Sherman and Sarah Hillary – convene for a lively discussion of their new book. Joined by Curator Emerita, Mary Kisler the group will discuss this fascinating research and offer a rare glimpse into the behind-the-scenes world of art galleries. Join these art detectives as they discuss their explorations.

The authors will be available to sign your copy of the book in our Gallery Shop after the talk.

Talk: 2–3pm
Book signing to follow

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Image credits
Frances Hodgkins, Refugee Children, circa 1916. Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, on loan from the Thanksgiving Foundation, 1998.
James Tissot, Still on Top, circa 1873. Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, gift of Viscount Leverhulme, 1921.
Colin McCahon, Will he save him, 1959. Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, gift of the artist, 1982.

About the book:
The Back of the Painting: Secrets and stories from art conservation is authored by three expert painting conservators working in public art galleries throughout Aotearoa New Zealand. They explore the backs of 33 paintings, ranging from 15th century artworks to the present day, from Claude Lorrain to Ralph Hotere, and held in the collections of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki and the Dunedin Public Art Gallery.

About the authors:
Sarah Hillary is Principal Conservator at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki and specialises in the study of historical artist’s techniques. She has published research on New Zealand artists Colin McCahon, Rita Angus and Frances Hodgkins, and international artists James Tissot and Guido Reni. She has also been involved in curating exhibitions about artist techniques. Sarah is also a practicing artist.

Jenny Sherman is the Conservator at Dunedin Public Art Gallery and specialises in European Old Master paintings with particular emphasis on Italian works. She has carried out treatment and technical study of paintings ranging from the 13th century to the present day. She has worked at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and the Conservation Center at New York University. She ran a private conservation practice in New York for many years before moving to New Zealand.

Linda Waters is Conservator Paintings at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and has particular interests in the treatment of paintings from the mid-twentieth century onwards and how the material nature of artworks contributes to their narrative. She has expertise in the microscopy and analysis of paint cross-sections and has undertaken research on artists’ pigments.

About the convenor:
Mary Kisler is art historian and Curator Emerita at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki. She is known for her publications which include Angels & Aristocrats: Early European Art in New Zealand Public Galleries (2010) and Finding Frances Hodgkins (2019).

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