Creating a work of art is a God-given talent. And being able to take a work that has been damaged and return it to its original glory may be even more rare. If so, Blaikie Hines is the da Vinci of art restoration. He has taken paintings with dirt, rips and even bullet holes and made them look new. And that's why, for owners of such pieces, his monthly trips from Maine to the Geary Gallery in Darien are so eagerly awaited.
Hines grew up in Darien and began working in a frame shop there 35 years ago while he was an aspiring artist. "I met some restorers who would come into the shop, and I got interested in what they would do," he said. After studying with restorers in the state, he pulled up stakes and moved to Ukiah, Calif., to work with the nation's master restorer, William Haney. "He shared formulas and techniques that were centuries old," said Hines, who considers the time spent there as his apprenticeship.
Returning to Connecticut, Hines opened a gallery across the street from Tom Geary's and began buying, restoring and selling pieces of art. "But I didn't like making a living that way," he said. He decided to move to Maine and sold his business to Geary with the proviso that he does all the restoration work. It's an arrangement that has worked amazingly well for 22 years.
"I think I'm fair, reasonable and consistent," said Hines, who estimates he has worked on nearly 8,000 pieces in his career. And he shows little sign of slowing down. "A lot of work comes when a piece changes hands from one generation to the next – they want it to look like it did when grandpa first got it."