Care for your Paintings

We all buy paintings for different reasons. Some as an investment, others for their artistic quality, and sometimes because you simply can’t imagine your life without them. But all paintings, irrelevant of why you have them, need to be cared for in order to have a promising future.

We have recently had an enquiry to re-examine the maintenance of a watercolour, acquired from our gallery some while ago. The colours had started to fade and the client was unsure why. We discovered that the painting had been exposed to sunlight, and the effect of the sun had caused the colours to fade, altering the appearance of the drawing. A problem like this is preventable and a timely reminder of how important it is to look after your pictures.

Restoration is an evolving subject and industry, with new methods and techniques constantly appearing out of technological advances and developing research. Our knowledge has progressed from the old accepted methods acquired over years of experience to using today x-rays and microscopic lenses for visual analysis. A few weeks ago we attended a tour of the laboratories of the Art Analysis & Research team (AA&R), a company who offer technical investigations of paintings with their state-of-the-art technology and equipment. They combine technical art history with a science based approach in order to deal with the risks in painting (e.g. authenticity, condition and quality). They have worked with paintings that are hundreds of years old, in terrible condition, battling against the effect of time. This made me think of how important restoration is for a painting and how easy it is to forget to look after for your paintings.

Only a few relatively simple measures are needed to conserve a painting in a good state of preservation…Caring for their health calls for the application of several rules: they must be kept in a stable, temperate atmosphere, avoiding extremes of light, radiation and pollution.’ Madeline Hours, 1976

It might all seem slightly more advanced than what you are capable of doing from home, but there are some easy ways to care for your pictures. If you have a watercolour, avoid sunlight. The sun affects the colours like bleach and alters the appearance of the drawing, resulting in permanent damage. If you have an oil painting, the sun doesn’t affect the colour, but the heat from the sun can be harmful to the pigments, so it is best to keep your painting at a stable room temperature.

Most paintings are covered in a layer of varnish, which naturally picks up dirt on its glossy surface over time. These naturally aged resin varnishes, together with a layer of dirt can be removed from the surface of the painting by an expert. Both colours and designs that were previously hidden behind layers of dust or dirt may now be unveiled, revealing images for your delight.

Gladwell & Patterson can advise on all aspects of restoration, framing, hanging and lighting and we hold strong, longstanding relationships with the very best professionals in each of the fields. Please do get in touch if you have any queries on how best to care for your paintings.


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