By Doug Eisele
Part 2 of 3 –
Paintings are perhaps the most common type of artwork. In addition to their obvious aesthetic value, many are culturally significant because of historical or sentimental value. No matter what the importance, caring for your paintings can preserve them for you to enjoy for years to come. And if a painting is damaged, all is not necessarily lost. Restoration and conservation treatment may be able to restore paintings to beauty.
ANATOMY OF A PAINTING
Paintings are made up of several layers, from the support onto which the ground is applied to the paint that covers the ground and creates the image. The support can be made of nearly any material but is typically cotton canvas, linen, wood, masonite or plaster. The support is often, but not always, primed with either an acrylic gesso or rabbit skin glue and a solid layer of paint. The paint itself is often chemically complex, containing synthetic or earth pigments suspended in oil, acrylic, tempera, wax or other mediums. These elements are normally very stable, but exposure to environmental changes or improper storage conditions can result in cracking, blistering or discoloration.
One of the most common causes of discoloration on paintings is yellowing varnish. As a general rule, varnish is meant to protect the paint surface by covering it and catching any airborne grime. Discolored varnish can be professionally removed with gentle solvents without harming the paint layer. In certain situations, when varnish is applied before oil paints have dried, extra care must be taken to ensure that the paint is not removed along with the varnish. Structural damage such as cracking, flaking or fungi growth can also be treated by a painting restoration specialist.
ENVIRONMENT FOR PAINTINGS
Where a painting is stored or displayed, and even how it is hung on the wall, can greatly affect its longevity. Depending on the type of paint used, humidity may cause cracking or peeling. Ideally a painting should be stored in an environment that is comfortable for people, around 70 degrees Fahrenheit, and with a relative humidity between 40 and 60 percent. Drastic changes should be avoided as well.
A simple backing board attached to the wooden stretchers helps to keep dust and debris off of the normally raw reverse side of the canvas and can protect the object during handling. This backing should be sealed with no space for air to enter. All paintings should be hung by picture …read more
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