Paintings - Care of your paintings

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Hanging & Display

Traditionally oil paintings are framed without glass as they already have the protection of their coat of varnish.  However works on paper such as watercolours, drawings, prints, engravings or etchings must be glazed to protect them from surface damage and dirt.  While Perspex sheeting can be used and is lighter and less fragile than glass, it scratches easily and attracts dust.  For valuable works on paper consider glazing with one of the modern UV filter glasses which are expensive but can filter out up to 95% of harmful UV rays.

If possible it is advisable to avoid hanging pictures over any heat source, as dirt or smoke will be carried up and could mark the picture.  Watercolours should only be hung in indirect light as strong light, may encourage fading or discolouration.  Oil paint is less likely to fade but will sometimes dry and crack in high temperatures caused by central heating, fires, direct sunlight or other forms of heat. Panels too may warp or crack as a result of heat or extremes of temperature.

Wide variations in temperature or humidity are not good for any paintings.  Do not hang pictures on damp walls.  To help air circulate especially if hung on an outside wall, allow a picture to lean away from the wall at the top.  Alternatively, a small sliver of cork from a wine bottle could be applied to the corners of the back of the frame.

Paintings should always be hung securely using strong cord or brass wire.  Eyehooks should be screwed securely into the frame only and not the stretcher or backboard.  On older paintings it is advisable to check carefully the integrity of the frame before fastening eyehooks.
For very hard walls use special hooks or alternatively drill and raw plug the wall. Always use two hooks for both safety and to prevent the picture 'swinging'. Very heavy paintings may also need to be supported at their base by brackets fixed to the wall.

Cleaning and Restoration
Apart from dusting frames and glass (if any), picture cleaning should only be done by a skilled professional. Never clean gilded frames with a damp cloth, detergents or sponge as this will eventually remove the gold leaf. It is recommended that frames be dusted only with a soft dry paint brush.


Flaking oil paint, dirty varnish and a whitish bloom on the surface of an oil painting caused by damp can all be treated without too much difficulty by a professional restorer. Stains and foxing on paper can also usually be dealt with by a paper conservator.

It is important to store oil painting and works on paper in clean, dry conditions, preferably somewhere dark and where the temperature is cool and fairly constant.  Paintings should be placed upright on blocks to keep them off the floor with acid-free board between each one. The largest and heaviest should be at the back of the stack and picture hooks should be removed to prevent them damaging the next frame or canvas.  Cover the stack with a clean dustsheet but do not use plastic as this can cause mould.  Unframed works on paper, such as maps or prints, are best kept flat in acid-free boxes or folders with acid-free tissue between each work.

Should you painting or frame require any form or restoration please contact us and we will be happy to recommend a professional restorer.

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