Whether cracking or flaking paint has caused losses or severe craquelure has altered the appearance of the painting, many artworks that arrive in the studio require treatment caused by cracks in the paint layer.

One such type of damage that we have recently treated is tenting paint. When the paint cracks, the layer lifts into a peaked tent shape and becomes raised.

Tenting paint can look unsightly on a painting, and create dimensionality where it has not been intended. The tenting can take the appearance of ridged lines running across the painting, and alter the perspective and depth of the artwork.

Causes of tenting paint

There are various causes of tenting paint, and each painting that arrives in the studio is assessed independently. Sometimes our client will be able to provide insight into what has happened to the painting, but if an artwork has been recently purchased or re-discovered it may not always be possible to obtain that information.

Many of the paintings we see have tenting paint caused by the paint layer shrinking. This occurs over time and naturally. Unless an artwork is contemporary or has previously been extensively restored, an oil painting will always have cracks showing.

Environmental factors are a leading contributor to tenting paint. If affected by moisture, perhaps through water damage, the paint layer can be ‘pushed up’ and cause this new shape to take place.

If a painting is exposed to a high temperature with relative humidity, this can also lead to the paint layer tenting.

By assessing each painting independently, we can create the right plan for successfully treating issues with the paint layer.

How to treat tenting paint

As each painting is assessed independently, the treatment is also tailored towards the specific requirements.

In many cases, the treatment will approximately follow a path where it is necessary to flatten the affected area. The paint layer will first be gently softened with solvents, and a heated spatula carefully applied. It is vital that this treatment is not instigated from the top of the tenting paint, but rather it commences from the base of the affected area, gently working up to ease the paint down.

The treatment is also dependent on how brittle the paint layer is. Sometimes, it is possible to just use heat treatment and obtain a successful result.

If any losses have occurred, perhaps if the tenting paint has been knocked, then the areas of exposed canvas can be filled and retouched after close pigment analysis.

If you think your painting may have tenting, please contact us for our no-obligation advice and recommendations.