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Artwork on canvas is easily pierced, punctured or ripped. This can be restored, whether it is the size of a pinprick or several large tears. Our conservators can restore a tear with a delicate thread by thread method. Any missing paint in this area will then be reapplied with conservation-grade pigments.
When paint cracks due to trauma or age, the paint can become unstable and fall away from the surface. This can be stabilised by our trained conservators and missing paint can be replaced with conservation techniques.
Over time, varnish starts to discolour and gradually becomes darker. This can be due to environmental factors (smoke, nicotine, grime) but is most often because the varnish naturally degrades. Historically varnish is created from organic resin which decomposes over time and becomes yellow.
Our conservation team can remove this old varnish and replace it with a contemporary conservation-grade varnish, which is non-yellowing and UV proof.
The yellowing effect of nicotine, as well as the black soot from a fireplace or candles, can discolour paintings. This can be cleaned with specialist techniques to reveal the original colours, as well as save the painting from deterioration due to the acidic nature of the nicotine.
When a building has a leak or a room is flooded, paintings can be damaged immediately at surface level and will be at greater risk to degrade over time. Paintings can be affected by mould and mildew from the absorbed damp. They may also have trapped moisture under the varnish layer, producing a hazy white veil known as ‘bloom’ or ‘blanching’.
This can be corrected by our conservators who will prevent any further risk of damage by preserving the artwork, whilst solving the current issues through restoration.
Paintings can be affected by mould when they are displayed or stored in a location that has damp and humid conditions. This can be treated by our conservators to ensure it does not spread and disturb the artwork further.
Mice, rats, woodworm, and other household insects and pests can damage artwork. This can be due to eating through the surface of the painting or through their urine, which can be highly acidic and lead to deterioration. This can be resolved via pest prevention techniques and affected artwork can be properly treated and restored to save the piece from any further danger.
Over time, restoration techniques have changed. Currently, there is a strong focus on the conservation of the artwork. Historically, restoration may have had different approaches and used different techniques, many of which are not as dedicated to the preservation of the artistic integrity of the piece.
Our contemporary conservators can reverse historic overpainting and restoration with modern techniques which will ensure the preservation of the artwork with museum techniques.
Bleeding is when the paint from one area of an oil painting or watercolour painting spreads or runs into the area next to it. This can often be caused by water or other liquids coming into contact with the paint on the painting. This can be restored and prevented with conservation techniques.
Bloom is when a cloudy, dull spot or veil appears on the painting’s varnish. This can make the painting look like it’s steamed up or foggy. This tends to occur as a result of being exposed to moisture. This can be restored with a varnish removal and further conservation.
Cleavage is when the layers of the paint separate or lift off the canvas. This often happens after the painting has already started to crack. It tends to look like the paint is flaking off. The paint can be consolidated and stabilised and any lost paint can be reapplied with conservation-grade pigments.
A blister is a raised area of the paint that appears like a bubble, it can sometimes look as if there is air or water between the layers. If you touch the blisters, the paint will most likely flake off. The painting is unstable and at risk of losing the paint layer. This can be corrected by our conservators with techniques that will restore and preserve the damaged area.
Friable damaged paintings
Oil paints require a binding medium when they are created. The lack of a proper binding medium during the creation of the artwork can mean that the work becomes powdery and very unstable. This is called friable. The paint will look and feel dusty, it may crumble away when it is touched. This can be fixed and restored with conservation techniques.
Abrasion to the paint layer can occur due to improper cleaning techniques. This can also be referred to as the painting being ‘skinned’ if it has heavily faded. The friction created on the surface from harsh cleaning materials can create a scratched surface with thinning paint. This might also occur on the edges of the painting which are up against a frame. Paint loss from abrasions can be restored by our conservators.
Pressure on the canvas can cause stress cracks. This can happen over a long period of time with the painting pressed up against an uneven surface, but also through accidental damage by being knocked or falling against an object.
Stress cracks can eventually cause the paint to crack and flake. The cracks on the painting will look like they are being pulled away from each other and will become bigger if left for a long time. This should be restored by conservators to ensure that the damage does not become worse.
Traction cracks form when the varnish is painted onto the painting before the paint has properly dried. It gets worse as the paint slowly dries and shrinks. The layers pull away from each other, making the painting look scaly and shiny, like alligator skin. This can be assessed by our conservators and restored with protective measures put in place.
Mechanical cracks and spiral cracks are often caused by a direct, repeated touch to one part of a painting. This can cause the original paint to flake off. This type of cracking looks almost like a stone has gone through a window, with the damaged area in the centre and the cracks spiraling outwards. This can be restored by our conservators.
A lacuna is a very small cavity, hole or rip in the painting. This can be restored thread by thread by our conservators, who will then replace any missing paint with specialist pigments.
Dirt and airborne debris can easily build up on the surface of a painting. This can be from contemporary sources, but most often it is historic dirt and grime which has built up over hundreds of years. Sometimes dirt and particles can be trapped underneath the varnish layer during the creation of the artwork, this can be resolved with a varnish removal. Conservators can carefully clean the painting to reveal the hidden features and to more importantly protect it from any harmful contaminants which may be hidden in the dirt.
Accretion is an accumulation of decomposed material and other material such as soil or rust on the surface of a painting. When this occurs, depending on the length of time it is left untreated, it can alter the original design of the painting. This can be carefully removed by our conservators, who will then restore the affected area.
Sometimes a painting may have met accidental damage with splashes and droplets of foreign material landing on the surface. This can be from wall paint, drinks, mud, cleaning fluid, or a variety of substances. These marks can be dangerous as they may discolour or eat away at the surface of the painting. This can be carefully cleaned and restored by our conservators.
Craquelure is a natural pattern of cracking found on almost all oil paintings. Your painting might look like it has a tiled mosaic effect when you look at it up close. Unless these cracks are very large or flaking, they should be stable. Our conservator will only restore areas of craquelure if it is putting the painting at risk.
This can be caused by pressure being put on the canvas causing the canvas to misshapen. Larger paintings with crossbar stretcher bars that have had weight pressed against them can cause impressions from the crossbars and result in visual disturbances.
Our conservators can restore a canvas painting that has been indented or distorted with specialist height, moisture and weight treatments.
We always make sure our clients understand the recommendations we are making to them, however, if you have been told your painting requires lining or relining it means the addition of a second canvas to a weakened original, to provide reinforcement and stability to an artwork.
To find out more read our blog here about lining.
Yes, an oil painting that has been stored in a damp area, been subject to water damage or fluctuating temperatures can grow mould which can affect the surface of the painting and cause damage. Our team will treat the mould to stop it from spreading and then repair the damage caused.
Yes, first of all, avoid pressure or touching the surface, if possible keep the painting flat. Our conservators can consolidate the paint layer by applying localised adhesive with heat and pressure to secure the flaking paint layers. If required, we can fill missing areas and retouch to match the texture and colours of the painting.