Should my painting be cleaned?
As a painting ages, it normally takes on a duller and less colorful appearance. This usually happens imperceptibly over many years and is caused by normal atmospheric pollution, such as smoke from tobacco and the home kitchen. Particles of airborne dirt inevitably collect in the cracks and crevices of the paint. In addition, resins in the painting’s varnish darken as they age and gradually turn a yellowish amber color. The combination of soils and old discolored varnish slowly cloud the image making it difficult to appreciate the color and fine detail of the artwork. When professionally cleaned, the proper combination of solvents will safely remove the discolored varnish and surface dirt with no harm to the paint layer.
But aren’t you destroying the patina by cleaning it?
When people refer to patina they are often talking about the “golden glow”, the look of yellowed varnish over a painting as well as the dirt that gradually over time becomes ingrained in the paint, thus dimming the details and dulling the colors. In oil paintings, “true patina” refers to the progressive darkening of the paint caused by the oil it contains (linseed oil most often but poppy and walnut were also used) and also the craquelure, a fine network of cracks that develops over time in a painting. This can certainly not be taken away from a painting during cleaning. An old painting conveys something of the personality of the painter and to bring these out to the fullest is more important than to preserve accretions of dirt and varnish. The true patina, the craquelure and darkening of the paint will be preserved when correctly cleaned.
What is lining?
Lining a painting refers to applying a new canvas support to the back of a stretched canvas painting. Reasons that this type of treatment might be needed are; the canvas is weak or rotting from age, there are deep or raised cracks in the paint which detract from the overall image, paint is lifting or flaking off, particles of paint are missing or tears that are too large or numerous to be patched.
In some cases a tear can be patched but in the case of a tear that is greater than 3 inches, there is a good chance that in time the patch will show as a raised area from the front. Therefore lining the painting is a better way to go.
In lining a painting, the canvas is removed from the stretcher, and an adhesive specially formulated for conservation is heated and applied to the back of the original canvas. A new piece of canvas or alternate backing material is bonded to the back on a table under low pressure and low heat. This treatment acts to stabilize any loose paint and prevents any future losses. It also flattens and strengthens the canvas so it can be re-stretched. Most paintings on canvas that are 75 years or older have at some point been lined or are in need of it. Were it not for the inventive techniques of early restorers who performed “lining”on many masterpieces these old paintings would no longer exist in our museums.
What is re-lining?
Relining is the same procedure as lining, only it refers to a painting that had been previously lined. Linings done in the 19thc were done with animal glue and flour which in time became brittle, caused excessive cracking and attracted insects and mold. In some cases, previous linings must be removed before a painting can be relined with modern techniques and materials.
What is edge lining?
If the canvas is of good strength but weak or splitting along the tacking edge, then a strip of fabric can be adhered to the inside edge and the canvas restretched.
What is reversibility?
Reversibility refers to conservation work that does not permanently alter the artwork. It is important that any repairs performed can be removed or “reversed’ at any point in the future.
What are condition reports?
Condition reports are written reports with photographs which document the condition the artwork was in at the time of the initial examination. The recommended treatment is discussed and if it is decided to proceed, the report documents the treatment as it progresses to completion.
What determines the cost?
The size of the painting and the time spent on it are the two main considerations in the cost. Materials and equipment used are built into the cost. Some customers may have more than one painting by the same artist presenting the same types of problems. The analysis and cleaning technique may be similar for each, resulting in a lower cost.
How long does it take?
The average for a painting with a moderate amount of restoration is 4 - 6 weeks. A small tear to repair could be a week or two.