Gathers/Rippling/Cracks in an Oil Painting – What Happened To My Painting?!!!!
I’ve blogged before about the effects of humidity and temperature on oil and acrylic paintings on fabrics (it doesn’t matter if they are on linen, cotton canvas, hemp or a blend): Click here to see the article and comments. Well, this blog post is about MY PAINTING! I mean, as good as the care is on my own art, I would expect NOTHING to ever happen!
About 12 years I was digging through a storage room with a client/friend/dealer, Thom Gianetto of Edenhurst Gallery and he had a sweet 19th century painting by an unknown artist that I immediately knew my wife would love. This painting was totally NOT his “thing” as he is an expert in high quality early California Impressionist paintings that are really gorgeous and highly collectible. So, we worked out a deal and I got the painting. Here is a photo of the painting:
The unframed painting was in very good condition, with a moderately yellowed varnish and a few cracks in the paint layers that I thought “I would just live with for now.” If you want to read about the unexpected cleaning of this painting, CLICK HERE (read about the unexpected time it took). We’ve had the painting hung in the front room of our house (CLICK HERE to see short video with this painting of earthquake proofing your collectibles), now for about 11 years, in a mild climate with no heating issues or excess humidity. For the last 6 months, though, we’ve noticed that the painting is looking very wavy or rippled and that the cracks are more pronounced. Sometimes ripples in paintings on canvas come and go depending on the season and the weather. But these ripples or gathers in the canvas have remained in the painting. Here’s a raking light photo:
The ripples or distortions correspond to where the original artist tacked the canvas to the stretcher bars and now that the canvas is expanding and contracting the unevenness that the artist used in his technique are showing up. The expanding and contracting of the painting is a result of fluctuating humidity and temperature and perhaps its been a bit more muggy than usual where we live. So, it would be predictable that they would be more pronounced.
The question and decision to be made is: 1) Wait till the muggy season is over and see if the gathers, ripples and cracks in the painting are less visible. 2) Back the painting now so that we never see the ripples ever again and we stop the cracking of the paint where it is now so they don’t develop any further. We’ve chosen option #2. The backing of a painting is called “lining a painting” and this painting conservation treatment should NEVER change the texture of the front of the painting. It should also be “reversible” or removable in the future without harming the artwork.
In this case, the 19th century canvas is highly responsive to water and if I were to use a water based glue to attach the lining, it would cause the fibers to shrink and the painting would be extensively damaged. Here’s a close up of another painting that was glue/paste lined and the paint popped off in a small area… but I’ve seen entire paintings go ape nuts flaking after getting wet:
I could use wax as an adhesive to line the painting but its my experience that the wax doesn’t do very well in getting rid of cracking and distortions unless you get the painting so hot as to practically melt the paint and it often stains and darkens 19th century glazing layers particularly if they are light colored (but I’ve seen many dark colors stained too). So, I don’t use wax as a lining adhesive.
There are many choices of synthetic adhesives that have been tested and developed specifically for painting restoration lining treatments over the last 50 years or more. The couple that we use are more easily reversed and don’t put the painting at risk. They can also be utilized in cooperation with other treatments to remove distortions and cracks.
So, I will be using a synthetic adhesive for the lining treatment to get rid of the gathers/ripples and the cracks. I can pretty much guarantee that the painting will look perfect when we are done… and will stay that way for many decades into the future. Anytime way into the future, if for some reason our painting conservation lining treatment needs to be undone and removed, it will come off without damaging the original painting.
Framing: I’ve written before about how much I like to hunt for, collect and recycle old frames. Here’s the article: CLICK HERE. Well, that’s exactly what we did with this painting! A short time after I got this painting, I was scrounging around in an attic with a client and found a really beat up, dirty, busted up old frame from the 1880’s. Disgusted that he would have such a sorry looking item still around, the client gave it to me. I don’t have a photo of it before we did the restoration work but it was cut down to fit the painting in this blog post, the broken corner ornamentation was reconstructed and the broken and missing gesso was repaired (filled and consolidated). Then the whole frame was refinished with a 23K gold waterleaf period looking finish. Here’s what it looks like today. I love this frame!
Nice “package” (as the dealer’s would say), eh? And I hit a home run with my wife too! By the way, if you have a beat up old broken down frame you want to give me, let me know. Maybe we can trade something for it!
So, I think you can see there are several valuable points made in this blog post if you are an art collector:
- 1. Why paintings have ripples and crack (humidity and temperature fluxuations)
- 2. Choices when choosing a lining technique for paintings and why
- 3. Great example of reusing old frames
- 4. I gave you 5 great (non self promoting) links to other high interest information
Keep these points in mind and you will be thanking me for helping you to save $1,000’s and get better higher quality results in your collection care and painting collecting.
In exchange for this valuable information, would you please give this blog post a THUMBS UP? Thanks!
Art conservation questions? Call Scott M. Haskins 805 564 3438
Art and antiques appraisal questions? Call Richard Holgate, FACL Appraisals 805 895 5121
Call Thom Gianetto, Edenhurst Gallery 949 376 9222 or go to the gallery website at http://www.edenhurstgallery.com for Early California Impressionist and Modernist Paintings
Scott M. Haskins was recognized recently as the Number 1 Art Expert to follow on Twitter for Insurance Adjusters (Follow best_artdoc): http://www.evancarmichael.com/Business-Coach/4492/July-2012-Top-100-Insurance-Experts-to-Follow-on-Twitter.html
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Keywords in this article: effects of humidity and temperature on oil and acrylic paintings, yellowed varnish, cracks in the paint layers, gathers/ripples/cracks in a painting, lining a painting, Early California Impressionist, Modernist Paintings, Art and antiques appraisal, art conservation, reusing old frames, lining technique for paintings, lining treatment, painting conservation, painting restoration, wax lining adhesive, glue/paste lining adhesive, synthetic lining adhesive, earthquake proofing your collectibles, Insurance Adjusters