Monday, January 19, 2009

Correct care for paintings

Getting the most out of your artwork.

Once a client purchases an oil painting there are a number of simple straight-forward steps that need to be taken to help keep the painting in its best possible condition.

Paintings leave the studio in perfect condition, with a coat of damar retouch varnish. From then on others take on the responsibility of caring and maintaining the artwork, whether this is the gallery or the collector.

Firstly the environment the artwork will be displayed or stored.
Please do not display your paintings where the room becomes overly hot, either from the sun or heating and definitely keep them out of direct sunlight. Even professional grade oil colours have their limitations.

Oil paintings have been painted for hundreds of years. If you visit an art gallery you will notice the air temperature is cool. The gallery maintains a constant air temperature of 20°C and humidity level of about 55%. While this may not be possible in the average home, it is in your interest to protect the artwork from extremes. Humidity and temperature variations are the enemies of artworks.

Oil paintings on stretched linen canvas generally offer a longer life than works painted on stretched cotton canvas, board or canvas laid on board, but stretched canvas is vulnerable to temperature and humidity variations. The change from heat to cool causes the canvas to expand and contract. If the painting is located in an area that has large temperature variations cracking may start to show in quite a short period of time and if left in this situation the oil paint will eventually start to separate from the gesso canvas surface.

If an artwork has been placed in a hostile environment and the paint surface is showing some early indication of cracks please take action immediately to halt any further effect. Move the painting to a cooler area of the home, have a piece of cardboard placed over the back of the stretcher frame, sealed by acid free tape around the edges, this gives a pocket of stable air behind the canvas. Have the painting assessed by the artist or a conserver as to whether the work needs to be cleaned and re-varnished, or perhaps placed behind glass.

While hardboard/panel/canvas laid on board offers a more rigid surface for oil paint, with less cracking under these circumstances, they have their own shortcomings.

If artworks are to be stored they must be kept in a cool dry area, if the area is prone to heat or humidity the painting will deteriorate rapidly.

Secondly, consider having the painting professionally cleaned every 5 to 10 years or so, and if necessary having a more permanent varnish applied (this can be done once the painting is 12 months old if desired). This is an excellent opportunity to access the painting is in good condition, to make sure it looks it's best for many more years.

Please contact me through my website email to arrange for cleaning and varnishing. You will need to advise me of the size of the painting to provide an estimate of what the likely service cost will be.

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