Can Happen to a Painting?
are fragile and changes are to be expected.
Many changes do not threaten the stability of a painting and are not
considered damage. Paintings generally do
well in environmental conditions that are comfortable for people; the
structural components of a painting can expand and contract in
as the surrounding temperature and humidity fluctuate.
damages happen slowly over time:
components of an oil painting expand and contract in reaction to
conditions at different speeds and in unequal proportion, subjecting
painting to stress. Prolonged exposure to extremes of dryness,
humidity, heat or
cold with little air flow will make a painting susceptible to
stress is a
result of unfavorable environmental or
mechanical conditions that have developed over an extended period of
sign of age is a darkened or yellowed surface caused by accumulated
nicotine, or discolored varnish.
varnish can be seen as a yellow or brown cast over the painted surface,
obscuring the artist’s intended colors
and the balance of light and dark.
accumulation can appear as a dull grey or brownish haze caused by soot,
nicotine, or ambient dust and accretions
on the surface. Superficial grime can become imbedded in the
In some instances it can be difficult or
impossible to remove.
displayed above a mantel will be exposed to soot, heat, and
to direct sunlight or ultraviolet light will produce changes in the
hue, and balance of colors and will cause the paint to become brittle.
most permanent colors eventually will be affected by intense
events in a painting's history may call for attention:
deteriorating restorations may appear as areas
of a different color or texture than the surrounding paint.
damages can happen in a moment:
damage is the most common form of damage to an oil painting. Because
painted surface is traditionally not behind glass, the painting is very
vulnerable, especially in transit or storage.
- Abrasions and dent-like impressions are
commonly caused by objects pressed into or rested against a painting's
- Tears, holes, or punctures in a canvas support can be
poor storage or handling, household accidents, or natural
- Issues ranging from soot deposits
Smoke damage; deposit of partially combusted material, usually
accompanied by an odor generally resulting from an open flame or
residue from a fireplace or a building
to disfigured paint can result from fire, an open source of heat, or
hot lights. Scorched
paint can be seen as a bubbled or blistered
Blister; a disruption causing an area to protrude from the painted
surface or a separation of the paint from the ground or both layers
from the support surface.
Water exposure can cause paint to become extremely unstable, resulting
in paint and ground loss can
result in lifting, delamination
Delamination; a separation of the ground, paint and varnish layers
and paint loss,
wavy distortions in the
canvas, mold growth, or tidelines
Tidelines; staining on the front or reverse of the canvas caused by
water coming into contact with the canvas and subsequently drying.
A saturated canvas could tighten
like a drum upon drying, causing the paint surface to crack and flake
an oil painting should be handled by a professional. If
soiled with food, smoke or other substances, do not attempt to clean
yourself. When structural damages occur to a painting such as tears,
paint, cracks with lifting edges, or mold, consult a conservator to
possible courses of treatment.