At Re-naissance Gallery we understand the responsibility to safeguard the valuables of others. Taking care of your paintings and objects is a delicate and complex process, due to the changes a painting undergoes as it ages. The removal of accumulated dirt and discolored varnish require skill as it is ultimately important that any changes to a painting are reversible, thus preserving the aesthetic and monetary value of the work
Understanding Conservation and Restoration
The goal of conservation and restoration is twofold: to “conserve” is to repair damage whilst taking action to prevent or slow down further deterioration. To “restore” is to bring back an object back as close to its original purpose or function.
Cleaning and Varnish Removal
Paintings are created with various materials that react differently to changes in the environment, including light, temperature and humidity. The most demanding task in preserving a painting, is the cleaning process. As cleaning is irreversible, the skill lies in a thorough understanding of the relation between the piece of art, the materials that make up the art and the chemistry used to perform this task. Removing old varnish is cautiously executed, so not to cause skinning, which is the removal of paint.
Paintings naturally age, but some paintings have suffered paint loss, tears, a weakened canvas, and other extreme damage from either water, fire or insect damage. The purpose of in-painting is to restore the unity of the work. Where parts of the painting have deteriorated, in-painting is the process of reconstructing the loss. Methodology involves determining how to fill the gap; smoothing out the contour lines; carefully matching the colors and then painting in the small details and adding texture.
When a painting’s canvas has been severely compromised, relining may be necessary. This is the process of attaching a new linen canvas onto the back of the original one, in order to strengthen, flatten and consolidate the painting. This is traditionally done using heat and pressure with a beeswax resin and a hot hand-held iron.
Gold has been used for thousands of years around the world as a medium to decorate objects of art, frames, furniture and architectural ornaments. Its alluring color and resilient permanence have been associated with beauty and riches throughout time.
Applying gold leaf is an art in itself, using a less than paper thin leaf of gold, which takes skill and precision when overlaying one leaf after another. Yet despite its fragility, gold leaf is metallurgical and chemically very strong, and will only tarnish or deteriorate if the substrate it lies on becomes unstable.
The less labor intensive method of applying gold leaf is Oil Gilding, and the preferred method of use by Re-Naissance Gallery. The frame or object is prepared with oil size, allowing the size to dry until tacky and then applying the gold leaf. The leaf is then toned and the patina restored as close to its original finish.
PAINTING CONSERVATION GLOSSARY OF TERMS
Abrasion: A paint loss caused by excess friction during improper varnish removal or a varnish loss caused by friction.
Craquelure: A pattern of cracks that develops on the surface of a painting as a result of the natural drying and aging of the paint film.
Crazing: Fine lines or minute surface cracks occurring on painted surfaces due to unequal contraction in drying or cooling.
Gesso: Traditionally a lean layer of size and chalk to form a ground on which to paint.
Grime: Surface dirt: a combination of air-borne soot, nicotine, and cooking grease. Dirt can be in the varnish, on top of the paint layer, or on top of the varnish.
Gallery Tone: the yellowish color of old paintings usually caused by the aging of naturals resins used in a painting or varnish.
In-painting: Paint applied over losses only. This is a technique commonly used by conservators to unify a painting that has suffered paint loss.
Impasto: the texture created in a painting caused by brushwork, usually thick and heavy but may be referred to crisp delicate textures as well
Lining: a conservation term for placing a new canvas on the back of the old one
Over paint: This paint was not applied by the artist but applied at a later date. It not only covers the original paint, but its presence often indicates an excessive alteration of the image. Over painting is not an acceptable conservation technique.
Pigment: the powder substance that makes up the color in a paint. Organic pigments are carbon based and inorganic pigments are mineral based.
Retouching: The work done by a restorer to replace areas of loss or damage in a painting.
Size: An adhesive diluted in water. Usually means and animal glue consisting of collagen and gelatin, rabbit skin glue, parchment glue, and edible jelly are all forms of gelatin.
Stretcher: A rigid wooden frame over which a canvas is usually stretched. The stretcher can be expanded by tapping keys (wedges) inserted at the corners.
Ultraviolet: The light rays which are outside of the visible spectrum at its violet end.
Varnish: An applied surface film, usually of a transparent, cloudless resin. It imparts an even gloss to the surface, wetting the paint, and providing protection for it.