Paintings may be objects of great beauty or of historical importance, providing an important cultural link with the past, carrying monetary value or have sentimental value to their owners. Whichever the case, paintings are fragile creations that require special care to assure their continued preservation. Paintings consist of various layers. The paint is applied to a support, typically canvas or wood, which is first primed with a glue-sizing and/or ground layer while traditional paintings are finished with a coat of varnish, contemporary paintings, naive or folk art may not have a ground layer or varnish coating. Paintings that do not have all of the traditional layers may be more fragile and susceptible to change or damage. The paint layers can be made of pigments in oil, acrylic (or other synthetics), encaustic (wax), tempera (egg), distemper (glue), casein (milk), gouache (plant gum), or a mixture of media. The paint can be applied on a wide variety of supports, although the most common are canvas and wood. Other supports include paper, cardboard, pressed board, artist's board, copper, ivory, glass, plaster, and stone. Paintings on canvas are usually stretched over an auxiliary wood support. An adjustable support is called a stretcher; a support with fixed corners is called a strainer.
Paintings change over time. Some inevitable results of aging, such as increased transparency of oil paint or the appearance of certain types of cracks, do not threaten the stability of a painting and may not always be considered damage. One of the most common signs of age is a darkened or yellowed surface caused by accumulated grime or discoloured varnish. When a varnish becomes so discoloured that it obscures the artist's intended colours and the balance of lights and darks, it usually can be removed by a conservator, but some evidence of aging is to be expected and must be accepted. However, when structural damages such as tears, flaking paint, cracks with lifting edges or mold occur in a painting consult a conservator to decide on a future course of treatment for your painting.
1) Maintaining a suitable environment
It is important to maintain a proper environment for your paintings. The structural components of a painting expand and contract in different ways as the surrounding temperature and humidity fluctuate. For example, the flexible canvas may become slack or taut in a changing environment, while the more brittle paint may crack, curl, or loosen its attachment to the underlying layers. If a painting could be maintained in an optimum environment, in one location at a constant temperature and humidity level, many of the problems requiring the services of a paintings conservator could be prevented. Paintings generally do well in environmental conditions that are comfortable for people, with relative humidity levels between 40 and 60 percent. Environmental guidelines have been developed for different types of materials. Paintings on canvas may react more quickly to rising and falling humidity levels than paintings on wood panels, but the dimensional changes that can occur in a wood panel can cause more structural damage. Owners of panel paintings should be particularly conscientious about avoiding unusually low or high relative humidity and temperatures to prevent warping, splitting, or breaking of the wood. Museums strive to maintain constant temperature and humidity levels for works of art, but even with expensive environmental control systems this task can be difficult. In most cases, gradual seasonal changes and small fluctuations are less harmful than large environmental fluctuations. Avoiding large fluctuations is very important. For example, a painting stored in what would generally be considered poor conditions (such as a cold, damp castle in England) may remain structurally secure for centuries, but begin to deteriorate rapidly if moved into 'stable' museum conditions simply because of the extreme change in its environment.
One of the simplest and most important preservation steps you can take is to have protective backing board attached to paintings. A Fome-Cor (or archival cardboard backing) screwed to the reverse of a painting will slow down environmental exchange through a canvas, keeping out dust and foreign objects, and protect against damage during handling. Be sure that the backing board covers the entire back of the picture. Do not leave air vent holes, which can cause localized environmental conditions and lead to cracks in paint. The backing board should be attached to the reverse of the stretcher or strainer, not to the frame. Kindly Contact us for any further information.
2) Displaying paintings
The display of paintings requires careful consideration. Direct sunlight can cause fading of certain pigments, increased yellowing of varnish, and excessive heat on the painting surface. It is best to exhibit paintings on dividing walls within a building rather than on perimeter walls where temperature fluctuations will be greater and condensation can occur. If paintings are placed on uninsulated exterior walls, it may help to place small rubber spacers on the back of the frame to increase air circulation.
Although a fireplace is often a focal spot for a room, a painting displayed above a mantel will be exposed to soot, heat, and environmental extremes. Hanging paintings above heating and air conditioning vents or in bathrooms with tubs or showers is also inadvisable because the rapid environmental fluctuations will be harmful. Select a safe place away from high traffic and seating areas.
When lighting paintings, use indirect lighting. Lights that attach to the top of the frame and hang over the picture can be dangerous. These lights cast a harsh glare, illuminate and heat the painting unevenly, and can fall into the artwork causing burns or tears. Indirect sunlight, recessed lighting, or ceiling-mounted spotlights are best for home installations. Halogen lamps are increasingly popular, but halogen bulbs emit high levels of ultraviolet light (the part of the spectrum that is damaging to artworks) and should be fitted with an ultraviolet filter when used near light-sensitive materials. These bulbs also have been known to explode and may pose a fire hazard. Tungsten lamps may be preferable for home lighting.
3) Handling Procedures
Pictures are usually safest when hanging on a wall, provided that they are well framed, with the picture and hanging hardware adequately secured. If you must store a painting, avoid damp basements or garages, where pictures can mold and attics, which are very hot in the summer. A good storage method is to place the paintings in a closet with a stiff board protecting the image side of each artwork and a backing board attached to the reverse. Here again, a backing board attached to the reverse can protect your painting.
Do not risk damaging your paintings by moving them any more than is absolutely necessary. If you must remove a painting from the wall or move it to another room, clear the pathway of furniture and obstructions and prepare a location to receive it. The frame must be stable and secure. If it is old or there is glazing (glass), ensure that it can withstand being moved. Determine if you can lift the painting safely by yourself. If the frame is massive or the picture is wider than your shoulders, ask someone to help you. If the painting is of a manageable size, lift the frame with both hands by placing one hand in the center of each side. Always carry it with the image side facing you. Remove jewelry, tie clips or belt buckles that might scrape the surface. Hang paintings from picture hooks (not nails) placed securely in the wall; a heavy picture requires two hooks. Before hanging, examine the back of the painting to ensure that the hanging hardware is strong and secure. If the painting is framed, the hardware should be attached to the back of the frame, not to the stretcher or strainer. If picture wire is used, attach a double strand of braided wire to the sides of the frame (not to the top edge) with "D" rings or mirror plate hangers. These types of hangers are secured to the wooden frame with two to four screws. Hanging can be more complicated with contemporary paintings that do not have protective frames. Moving and hanging unframed or large paintings safely may require the services of professional art handlers.
If you intend to buy a new frame for a painting or have a painting treated by a conservator, take the opportunity to have it properly framed. Ideally, a painting should be held in the frame with mending plates that are attached to the frame with screws.
5) Housekeeping Guidelines
After carefully examining your paintings for loose or flaking paint, dust them every four to six months. Feather dusters can scratch paintings. Instead use soft, white-bristle Japanese brushes, sable (such as a typical makeup brush), or badger-hair brushes (called "blenders" and used for faux finishes). Never try to clean a painting yourself or use any liquid or commercial cleaners on a painted surface. Commercial preparations can cause irreparable damage to the fragile layers of a painting. Avoid using pesticides, foggers, air fresheners, or furniture sprays near artworks. Remove paintings from a room before painting, plastering, or steam cleaning carpets or wallpaper. Return the artworks only when the walls and floors are completely dry.
6) Disasters and other problems
If a disaster such as a flood or fire occurs where your artworks are, remove paintings from standing water or debris. If the paint is flaking, lay the painting flat with the image side up to limit paint loss. Consult a professional conservator as soon as possible for assistance in limiting damage to your artwork. Wiping smoke, mud, or other contaminants from a painting may result in additional damage.
Other problems will require the help of a professional conservator. Insect infestation, flaking paint, paint loss, torn canvas, cracks with lifting edges or planar distortions (wrinkles or draws in the canvas), mold growth, grime, or very discolored varnish are problems that only a professional conservator is trained to address.
Works of art on paper are vulnerable to physical damage. They are easily torn, folded, and smudged. Works of art and documents on paper are also susceptible to chemical damage by components contained in paperboard and adhesives used to mat works of art. Choosing the appropriate mat board, hinges, glazing, and backboard will help to protect and preserve the works in your collection. The use of chemically unstable products can result in damage to the art that they are intended to protect.
1) Mat Boards
Many of the mat boards available for framing purposes are of poor quality. The acidic content of these inferior boards can cause paper to become brittle and darker. In poor quality mat boards, the core of the board darkens as it ages. When this exposed core of the board comes into direct contact with the matted work, at the window opening or at the edges, an orange-brown line of staining, known as 'mat burn' occurs.
2) Backing Boards
The backing board is a rigid sheet of chemically stable board placed behind the back mat in the frame. It is stiff enough to hold the contents of the frame in place without bowing when displayed.
3) Glazing Materials
Glazing protects the surface of the work of art and prevents the infiltration of dirt and dust. The two most common glazing materials are glass and acrylic sheet. Plastics other than acrylic may be unstable and are to be avoided. An acrylic sheet weighs less than glass and is shatterproof. Although acrylic tends to scratch, scratch-resistant grades are available. Because acrylic has a static charge, use glass when glazing powdery materials such as pastel, chalk, and charcoal. Whether you choose glass or acrylic, always be sure that the glazing material does not come into direct contact with the surface of the artifact. Prolonged contact of the glazing with the surface of the artifact can result in its adhesion to the glazing, or can cause surface changes in the work. A thick mat or a spacer in the frame will keep the artifact from touching the glazing. Glazing that filters ultraviolet radiation can help reduce the fading of colors or darkening of paper. Both glass and acrylic sheets that filter out ultraviolet radiation are available. Works glazed with ultraviolet filtering materials can still be damaged by high light levels and long periods of exposure. Limit the quantity of light and the duration of exposure to light to minimize damage to documents and works of art on paper.
4) Cleaning and repairs
Cleaning and repairs are best left to a paper conservator. It is far too easy to damage works of art on paper through inexpert treatment. If your artwork has signs of mould, consult a paper conservator / Gallery 7. Mould not only poses a hazard to the art, but it can also a health hazard.
Patina refers to the colours of the surface of a bronze. The sculptor creates this colour by applying chemicals on the sculpture with heat. Patina is also the natural reaction of bronze to atmospheric conditions, such as chemicals and humidity. To deter change in the patina, the artist or the foundry will protect the patina with coats of wax or a lacquer. Because atmospheric elements constantly work on bronze surfaces after leaving the foundry, certain steps can be taken by the owner to preserve the original patina.
2) Care and Cleaning
Bronzes should be displayed in ventilated areas away from excessive heat and humidity. Attics and basements should be avoided. Keep your sculpture clean by dusting it with a soft cloth, soft shoe brush, toothbrush or the nozzle brush attachment of your vacuum cleaner. If de-greasing or heavier cleaning is required, test a small area first, cleaning it with a mild soap and distilled water. Rinse thoroughly and allow to dry thoroughly.
Instead of using waxes or polishes that may contain cleaning agents, foundries recommend Johnson’s Traffic Wax, Mohawk Blue Label Paste Wax or Renaissance wax, which is inert and will not yellow over time. A very thin, even coat of wax should be applied with a soft brush and buffed with a rag or soft bristle brush. Highly humid areas may call for more frequent applications. Allow the wax to sit and dry from six to twelve hours before polishing. A second coat of wax will add additional gloss if desired. There is no harm in waxing a sculpture more frequently.
4) Cleaning and Care Cautions
If, in the cleaning process you find special coatings or unusual varied patinas, take care to not alter the surface or remove coloring that could damage the future value of the bronze sculpture. Don’t use abrasive polishes, brushes or chemicals, which could scratch the metal surface.
Some bronze owners prefer to let the wax coating wear thin and enjoy the natural reaction and aging process of the patina.
Bronze is an extremely hardy, durable metal, lasting for centuries. The patina is the most delicate part of your bronze. Contact Gallery 7 or a professional conservator concerning significant changes to your bronze’s patina. In the meantime, enjoy your bronze as a beautiful work of art.
Care for Sculptures in Limestone, sandstone and coade stone form a weathered surface crust which if removed will expose a vulnerable crumbly surface beneath. If the surface is smooth and hard you can lightly hose it with water, easing loosened dirt with a soft bristled brush.
Care for Sculptures in Alabaster and marble is porous and stains easily, and marble discolours and deteriorates particularly in salty or polluted air. Attempts to remove stains from any porous stone may force the stain deeper or erode the surface. Alabaster and soapstone are very soft, easily scratched and broken, and gradually dissolve in water and should be dusted regularly to prevent a buildup of dirt.
Major repairs or the restoration of stonework should always be carried out by a qualified professional, who will use a special resin compound mixed with ground up stone to match the object.
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