By Kiley Jacques
Photographs by Elise Donoghue
Inside an obscure industrial building on Beverly’s Elliot Street, a small group of artists bands together in a manner reminiscent of Europe’s ateliers. Oliver Brothers Fine Art Restoration and Conservation, the country’s first and longest operating company of its kind, resurrects Old Masters and frames fresh talent.
The gesso-scented studio bears a history as rich and layered as many of its restored paintings. In 1850, founder James Oliver, a trained art restorer from Scotland, set up shop in New York City with his son, George, and accommodated requests made by the likes of The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Smithsonian Institution.
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. In turn, George’s own two sons, Fred and George Taylor, were trained in the art and science of painting restoration. Taylor proved a brilliant innovator. Hisprimary contribution to the field was the invention of the first vacuum table for re-lining paintings—a device still used in the industry worldwide.
George Taylor’s son, Emerson, was yet another generation 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 and Constantine Tsaousis, but was sure to pass on Oliver Brothers’ longperfected techniques before departing the company. In 1968, Wales and Tsaousis found a young art school graduate named Peter Tysver and took him on as an apprentice. When Tsaousis died in 1986, Wales retired and Tysver took over the business. He remains at the helm today.