How to Take Care of your Paintings
IDENTIFICATION OF DETERIORATION/DAMAGE
The first thing that a collector can do to ensure that his or her paintings are in good condition is to examine them periodically and carefully. Look for signs of deterioration that may require treatment. If it is a stretched painting, is the canvas buckled at the corners, split at the tacking edge or looking very brittle on the turned over edge? If so, the painting may need lining or at the very least the edges may need lining. Check for tiny holes, which could possibly mean wood boring insects in the stretcher. If it’s seen, consider having it stretched on new wood. Are all the keys (wooden wedges) in place? Loose keys can be easily felt from the front and should be carefully eased out. Replace the missing ones and check the canvas tension. The painting should be taught, not wavy. Tapping in the keys to improve tension should not be done too forcefully. Too much pressure can cause the painting to split at the turned over edge. Always consider a good framing shop for expensive and original Art. Is the paint layer flaking or losing particles of paint? If so, lay the painting flat in a safe place until it can be fixed. Is the paint cloudy or opaque looking? The humidity may be too high or the painting once was stored in a very humid environment. Finally, check the hardware. Is the wire cord frayed and are the brackets and screws securely attached? Can the picture hook hold the weight of the painting? A heavy picture requires two hooks. Painting should be hung well with patience and not in a rush otherwise it can fall right of the wall and get damaged.
Great Care needs to be taken when handling paintings. Only one painting should be handled at a time. Large Panels and Canvases should be moved by couple of people. Be careful to keep dirt and finger prints from paintings, especially when dealing with exposed, unprimed canvases often seen in antique painting. Make sure that hands are clean while handling the painting. Preventive measures can be used like handling painting with Gloves,
Watches or jewels should be removed before handling the Art to avoid from getting it scratched. When carrying paintings, avoid holding a painting by the top edge of the frame. It is better to lift the painting from the outer edges or from underneath. Be careful not to lift an ornate frame by the elaborate moldings as they can easily break off.
Dust and lint can be removed with a soft natural hair brush or soft cloth. A piece of velvet works very well, however do not do this if there are any signs of loose or flaking paint as they will catch and be pulled off. Any cleaning should be done by a trained restorer.
HOW TO HANG PAINTINGS
Sturdy and Appropriate size hardware should be used before hanging any painting. Wall hooks should be driven in the wall studs for maximum stability. Heavy Paintings should have a proper wall Anchor. Paintings may be suspended on a metal hook secured to the frame. Painting wire should be looped through eye screws, secured in the right and left sides of the frame, so that the painting hangs from a double strand of wire. The end of the wire should be secured so that it does not poke into the back of the canvas or the panel. The aging process makes the canvas fabric drier and weaker and any loose wire will push its way forward denting into the back of the canvas until eventually a bulge forms on the surface.
Very few people ever connect this with the unfortunate hanging method hidden from view.
All the metal and fabric devices attached to the painting should be periodically checked.
Avoid hanging paintings over a fireplace or a heater because of exposure to soot and heat. Likewise they should not be hung directly below air conditioning ducts or in direct sunlight. Glazing the glass or applying window tint is recommended if need be. Halogen or fluorescent bulbs emit ultraviolet light which can fade pigments but ordinary incandescent bulbs are considered safe to use. Overhead spotlights or tracking is a safer way to light paintings than lights that hook on the top. As the attached lights are turned on and off, the heat given off can adversely affect the painting by causing uneven contraction and expansion. Expansion and contraction in old and brittle paint may cause cracking or separation from the ground or preparatory layer. It is best not to hang paintings on uninsulated outer walls because of the danger of condensation. If need be however, put rubber spacers on the back to prevent moisture from being trapped behind the picture. Kitchens and bathrooms also are not good environments for paintings because of smoke and humidity.
When storing paintings, be mindful of the environmental conditions. Attics and basements are not good because they are excessively dry or damp and lack good air circulation. Concrete floors are terrible for paintings as dampness is absorbed up from the concrete. When stacking paintings horizontally, always use pads between them and under them. Be careful the wire and hooks from one are not protruding into another. If many paintings are stored, consider building racks to keep them separated.
Changes in temperature effect the relatively humidity and thus the expansion and contraction of a painting on canvas.As the temperature and humidity climb, a painting will be visibly slacker on its stretchers. When the humidity decreases the canvas begins to tighten and appear more taught as it should be. Generally, this alternate relaxing and tightening will in time cause the paint to crack and sometimes let go, hence lifting and flaking particles of paint. In general, gradual temperature changes are not as harmful as severe ones. Optimally paintings should be kept at about 65-75 degrees F. The relative humidity should be generally kept at between 40-70%, which can be accomplished by setting the air conditioner at no higher than 78 degrees. When the humidity goes over 70%, molds can develop and attack both the front and back of the painting. In such a case the painting needs to be professionally treated to kill the mold.
IMPORTANT POINTS TO REMEMBER
- The best place to hang a painting is on a wall which has a wall stud where you can securely anchor the wall hooks, away from any heat source, in a place of relatively stable and reasonable humidity and not in direct sunlight.
- It is not advised to hang paintings over fire place. In addition to the damage caused by the radiating heat, soot and smoke damage will permanently darken and alter the tone of the paintings, especially those paintings that are unprimed and unvarnished.
- Humidity level should be balanced in the art room. Low relative humidity tends to make the paint brittle and prone to mechanical change. High relative humidity tends to promote the growth of biological organisms. E.g. Moulds or black spots in Acrylic Canvas paintings. Too much change in relative humidity level is especially bad for Wooden panel paintings.
- Ultraviolet light should be kept away from paintings. It causes discolor of the paints and it effects the color balance of the image.
- Painting may be safely dusted using a clean, soft natural hair artists brush. The painting should be positioned on a clean padded surface and held upright at a forward angle so that the dust falls away from the face of the painting. Brushing is carried out slowly and gently in one direction across or down the painting followed by a second brushing in the opposite directionBrushing on paintings with a matte surface should be avoided. Never use dry or moist dust cloths, stiff bristle brushes or feather dusters to dust a painting. Threads from dust cloth can stick to the paint, moisture may spoil the paint and bristle-haired brush and feather dusters can scratch the surface of a painting.
- If ever in doubt about how to handle a painting take professional advice and help from a painting conservators. They will be able to guide you in the preservation and care of your painting so it will appear its best for the longest time.