1850 New York City
James Oliver, the original founder of our firm, was trained and worked as an art restorer in Scotland. Some time before 1850 he arrived in New York to ply his trade in the New World.
Together with his son George, they established themselves as the pre-eminent art restoration firm, and were soon doing restoration for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, along with many other illustrious public and private clients.
The Olivers Come to Boston
Sometime after the Civil War, George relocated to Boston and established Oliver Brothers (then known as “James Oliver’s Sons”) as the leading art restoration firm in the Northeast. For a period of time, they had locations in both Boston and New York City.
(View a 100 year-old Oliver Brothers brochure)
Priceless Works Deserve Special Care
This 1906 article from the Hartford Courant reports on the Olivers’ restoration of a Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington, which was completed within the Connecticut State Capitol building at the insistence of the state’s comptroller, who feared the painting’s value would make insuring it for transport to Boston cost prohibitive.
You can read the article HERE
A Lasting Contribution to the Field of Fine Art Restoration and Conservation
George’s two sons, Fred and George Taylor, were trained in the exacting skills of painting restoration. In addition to being an outstanding restorer, Taylor proved to be a brilliant innovator and inventor. He perfected several innovative procedures for removing surface imperfections and transferring paintings with compromised supports.
His primary contribution to the field however, was the invention of the world’s first vacuum table for re-lining paintings. He designed and built the original table himself, and it was used by our firm for many years. His original patent is in our archives. The vacuum table pioneered by Oliver Brothers is used throughout the world today in the restoration and conservation of paintings.
George Taylor’s son, Emerson, was trained at an early age to join the firm. Emerson and his uncle Fred worked together until Emerson’s untimely death in 1960. Fred then sold the business in 1961 to Carroll Wales ( Carroll Wales Wikipedia page link) and Constantine Tsaousis. Fred remained long enough to pass on the many special techniques and procedures that the Oliver Brothers had perfected over the years.
Art Restoration History | ARCHIVES OF AMERICAN ART
Oral history interview with Carroll F. Wales, 1992 November 10-1993 February 11. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Archives of American Art LINK
Overview | Collection Information
Format: Originally recorded on 9 sound cassettes. Reformatted in 2010 as 17 digital wav files. Duration is 12 hr., 20 min.
Summary: An interview of Carroll F. Wales conducted 1992 November 10-1993 February 11, by Robert F. Brown, for the Archives of American Art.
Wales discusses his childhood as an orphan in Maine; work as a designer for Cheney silk works, Manchester, Connecticut; World War II service in North Africa and Europe; education at Harvard in fine arts under Chandler Post, Frederick Deknatel, and John Coolidge; art conservation training under Morton Bradley, Frank Gettens, and Richard Buck; fellow students Evan Turner, Elizabeth Jones, John Maxon, and Dore Ashton; first jobs restoring Roman mosaic at Worcester Art Museum, Italian paintings in the Jarvis Collection at Yale, and early 19th century murals at Wesleyan University; extended work (1952-1959) through the Byzantine Institute on Byzantine frescoes in Istanbul, George Stout’s work on particularly difficult projects, and the division of preparatory work among Greek Christians (figural paintings) and Turkish Moslems (decorative areas); and friendship with British archaeologist Max Mallowan and his wife, author Agatha Christie, while conserving ivories during excavations at Nimrud, Iraq.
Carroll F. Wales (1918-2007) was a restorer from Boston, Massachusetts.
An old painting easel is still in use. We found a photo of the easel in the article “Menders of the Old Masters” published in 1954.
Archives of American Art,
James Oliver Account Books 1865-1890,
New York City Historical Society and
the Smithsonian Institution
The original Vacuum Press from 1920’s
Engine and Peter Tysver giving a presentation about the original press
Ashlie Gorky’s murals restored by Carroll Wales and Peter Tysver
Newark Airport, Newark, New Jersey
Oliver Brothers Wikipedia page LINK
Oliver Brothers Today
In 1968 Mr. Wales and Mr. Tsaousis found a young art school graduate named Peter Tysver who showed an aptitude for art restoration and took him on as an apprentice.
When Tsaousis died in 1986, Mr. Wales decided to retire and Mr. Tysver took over the business. In a way similar to his own introduction to the field of art restoration, a young artist, named Gregory Bishop, applied to the company for an apprenticeship. Mr. Bishop was hired in 1990 and was meticulously trained by Mr. Tysver in all aspects of painting conservation and restoration of the course of several years.
Mr. Bishop and Mr. Tysver eventually became business partners and the business has prospered and grown over the years. After 50 years with Oliver Brothers, Mr. Tysver decided to retire. He is still with the company on part-time basis.
After Mr. Tysver’s retirement in 2017, Greg Bishop assumed the role of the firm’s chief executive officer.
After more than a century and a half of being in continues operation, the company’s goals, mission and culture have not changed. In a manner similar to the studios of the Old Masters, the continuity of Oliver Brothers has been maintained for over one hundred and seventy years from its inception to the present day.
OLIVER BROTHERS COLLECTION EXHIBIT
We have preserved and have on display many old tools, pigments, brushes, jars and countless other items used by the Oliver Brothers restorers over the years. While we are not using the original vacuum press from 1920’s, the engine is still operational. We would be happy to give a demonstration / tour to all who would like to learn more.
We have digitized and published all magazine and newspaper articles about the company we found so far. If anyone has any additional information please let us know.
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