Our team is often asked whether a signature can be restored or made to stand out further, this answer to this is one of conservation ethics. The tampering of an artist’s name or an autograph can in fact de-value an artwork or item, as it alters the integrity and genuine nature of the work. However, there are several ways our team can help you to protect signed areas, including sensitive treatments and professional framing options. 

Oil painting signatures

Varnish removal to reveal an artist’s signature

Our conservators often perform surface cleaning and varnish removal on paintings that have become darkened and discoloured over time. This discolouration can hide important signatures and areas that may help the provenance of the artwork. 

Sarah Losh Signature

Surface discolouration can be caused by historic contamination such as fireplace smoke and airborne debris, if it is yellow it may have been caused by nicotine. A varnished oil painting may also discolour due to natural resin, or become clouded due to moisture, creating a strong visual disturbance. All of these issues can be professionally restored with tried and tested conservation treatments. Conservators will test the artwork to ensure that only the varnish layer is removed whilst the original paint is safe. Surface cleaning and varnish removal will often reveal the vibrant original colours that have been hiding under the surface for decades or even centuries.

signature montage

Surface discolouration could be completely hiding signatures or obscuring our ability to read them clearly. Therefore, varnish removal or professional cleaning may help to better display the artist’s writing, without altering the signature or disturbing the artistic and historic integrity of the piece. 

Can signatures be retouched?

Our team cannot retouch signatures, but they can consolidate and stabilise a disturbed paint layer to ensure this area of the painting is safe from deterioration or age-related damage. 

Flaking signature area

Protecting fading autographs

When a signature is on paper, as is most often the case with signed memorabilia or artworks such as watercolours and limited edition prints, it may be highly vulnerable to fading. UV rays can negatively affect works on paper, especially light sensitive inks. When a signature begins to fade this is not reversible, so we suggest that swift intervention takes place to ensure it does not completely disappear.

Our professional team can advise you on UV protective glazing for bespoke frames, this offers up to 99% UV protection. You can find out more about UV glass and museum glass here. Our framing experts can provide you with a portfolio of options to suit your personal taste and the genre of the artwork or memorabilia. Mount windows can also be added to include an artist’s name, further information, or to help an autograph stand out. 

Autographs with mould or foxing 

Our ICON accredited paper conservator is able to safely remove issues such as mould growth and foxing, as well as other types of paper damage. During this process, the autograph will be tested to ensure it is not disturbed or removed in the process. 

How can we help?

Our trained team is able to help you preserve and protect signatures and autographs on all manner of artworks and memorabilia items. In the past our team has helped in the restoration of paintings with hidden signatures and signed sporting memorabilia such as leather footballs covered in autographs. If you would like more information, please get in touch.

You can call us on 01228 521 231 or email [email protected]

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