Painting Restoration and Cleaning

Paintings are composed of several components, made of various materials. Most painting supports are usually made of woven fabric, cotton or linen, or sometimes wooden panels or other materials could be used.

The support is customarily prepared for painting by a gesso base, made of chalk powder and a binder that adheres it to the support. This gesso base provides a bright, reflective, non- porous surface ready accept the paint while it protects the linen from the caustic effects of linseed oil used in oil painting.

The paint is applied in multiple layers of varying thickness and is frequently followed by varnish.

Due to this complexity of components, it is logical to think of a painting as a construction where the different parts react to changes of light, humidity and temperature at a different rate, causing them to flex, twist and shrink against each other.

Over time, in addition to oxidization and aging, these stresses cause weaknesses resulting in cracking, delamination and flaking.

A damaged Renoir painting

Renoir painting after restoration

All paintings are subject to deterioration due to age, accident, or the incompatibility of materials used by the artist called inherent vice.

Temperature cycling, intrusion of water, accidental mechanical damage, often cause the paint and/or ground layer to detach from the canvas support or wooden panel of a painting. At times artists will apply incompatible paint layers on top of one another causing the flaking of the top layer.

In order to prevent further losses, these weaknesses must be addressed by injecting media specific adhesives between the detached layers. This process consolidates and stabilizes the layers. Heat and vacuum are frequently employed to help the binder penetrate the between the minute, often invisible cracks. The treatment is usually performed on the vacuum hot table, or suction table and is followed by cleaning and compensation.