The Age, News. Restoration of a scottish painting at The NGV.restorer Sandi Mtchell with the scottish painting "Entrance to Glen Etive from near Kings house".Pic Simon Schluter  31 March 2014.

The Age, News. Restoration of a scottish painting at The NGV.restorer Sandi Mtchell with the scottish painting "Entrance to Glen Etive from near Kings house".Pic Simon Schluter 31 March 2014. Photo: Simon Schluter SMS

When National Gallery of Victoria conservation fellow Sandi Mitchell took on the task of restoring a rarely seen and heavily damaged 19th-century Scottish landscape for an exhibition in Ballarat, she knew it would be a big job. What she didn't count on were the links between her own life and the work.

''We get requests to restore work for external exhibitions all the time, and usually we can't say yes. But the importance of the artist [Hugh Paton] and the fact it's the only one in a public collection made it a priority for us,'' said Mitchell, who is of Scottish heritage.

For four months in mid-2013, Mitchell toiled to re-stretch the canvas, remove discoloured varnish and restore details to the painting, Entrance to Glen Etive from near King's House. The work, which has not been displayed in living memory, is set to be shown at the Art Gallery of Ballarat next month.

Further marrying her to the work, Mitchell's conservation fellowship, the only one of its kind in Australia, is sponsored by the philanthropic foundation of Ballarat-born Hugh D.T. Williamson.

''As I was cleaning, I was finding that the minute details of the landscape were coming forward, which was quite an important part of Paton's approach. He was influenced by the pre-Raphaelites, and always tried to be honest to nature,'' said Mitchell, a graduate of Melbourne University's masters of cultural material conservation.

''The work was acquired in 1882, a time when a large percentage of the Victorian population had a Scottish background or had even come from Scotland, so it's a nostalgic acquisition in a way,'' she said.

Mitchell's commitment to the work was a boon for Art Gallery of Ballarat curators Patricia Macdonald and Alison Inglis, who had assumed the work would never reach gallery-worthy standard in time. ''We saw straight away what an impressive piece it was - it really is a forgotten work by a major Scottish artist,'' Macdonald said.

Michael Varcoe-Cox, head of conservation at the NGV, hopes that once the restored work comes back from its showing in Ballarat it will be part of the permanent exhibition.

''I think it will probably end up in the 19th-century area on permanent view, because of the amazing work Sandi has done,'' he said.

Hugh Paton's Entrance to Glen Etive from near King's House will be shown as part of the Art Gallery of Ballarat's exhibition For Auld Lang Syne: Images of Scottish Australia from First Fleet to Federation from April 11.