Care of paintings

Recommendations by Gene Gould

 

There are many resources available concerning the care and maintenance of oil paintings, especially now on the internet. Unfortunately, these sources are often contradictory and oddly non-committal. People are more willing to say what not to do than what to do.

The guidelines presented here are my personal conclusions based on many sources including my experience during more than 40 years of painting and my understanding as a scientist. It is generally accepted that cracking or flaking on a painting will become apparent within as few as 5 years. There are examples of famous painters, who, using experimental methods, have watched their paintings deteriorate during this time span. I am pleased to say none of my paintings have exhibited any tendency to these aging processes. In so far as I can tell, the colors have not faded or changed, and there are no signs or cracking or flaking. I have always used paints from reputable manufacturers and have carefully prepared each canvas or panel. My major reference for these matters has been Ralph Mayerís book "The Artistís Handbook of Materials and Techniques".

Guidelines:

1.  Check with the gallery or artist as to the permanence of the materials used and the history of other paintings made by this artist.

2.  Make sure that a removable varnish protective coating has been applied (or will be applied) after the painting has dried for at least 6 months.

3.  Clean the painting as rarely as possible with distilled water with a slight amount of mild detergent using soft cotton rags. Every 100 years or so, the old varnish can be removed and new varnish applied. This must be done professionally.

4.  Do not place artworks in direct sunlight. Sunlight has a strong bleaching effect on pigments and dyes. Sunlight that is "scattered" onto the painting by walls and furniture has most of the deleterious ultraviolet wavelengths removed and is much less dangerous. However, direct reflections can be harmful as well as distracting to the viewer.

5.  Do not place artworks in places with changing temperature or humidity such as entry ways in humid or extreme climates. Air inside air-conditioned buildings is very dry and cool or hot compared to outside air.

6.  Do not expose artworks to fumes such as those from cigarettes, candles, or fireplaces.

7.  Observe common sense rules of handling the painting. Do not touch the surface with bare hands. Hang the painting securely, etc.

 

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