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The logic behind restoration

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How paintings develop damage

A fine art painting, whether it is an oil or acrylic on canvas or board, varnished or unvarnished, will attract dust, moisture and atmospheric aerosols like a magnet, as does almost any other hard surfaced item in the home. Atmospheric interior aerosols are the main culprits that do the most damage, and included in these are volatile organic compounds, otherwise known as VOC's. It's not so much as the dust that matters, it's more about the concern for indoor particulate contaminants, and every home has them to a greater or lesser degree. Today we use a myriad of cleaning agents, chemical air fresheners and other synthetic compounds in the home that could also have an effect on everything they touch, including your art and even your health.

Over time, minute layers of these indoor pollutants build up on a painting's surface. With the continual change of the seasons and humidity levels, these built up layers tend to solidify into a glazed coating that, ever-so-slowly can damage unvarnished works and darken the look of a painting, gradually diminishing its look and its value over time.

It's at this point that a professional cleaning and restoration is the best avenue of approach with a soiled and discoloured painting. But a cleaning and restoration is best taken on by a professional as opposed to an amateurish attempt which has the potential to cause expensive foolhardy mistakes and often many regrets.

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How prints develop damage

The atmospheric aerosols that cause damage to the surface of paintings, to some extent, also affect framed and glass covered prints. Except in the case of hand-pulled prints, the damage most often tends to originate from within. Being covered in glass will protect the print initially from exterior contaminants, but what's often more important in reference to preservation is the use of proper archival, acid-free materials employed in the matting and backing of the print itself.

Many older, vintage hand-pulled prints, be it an etching or aquatint, woodcut or lithograph, were often mounted-on or matted with wood-pulp based materials. Wood based materials emit acidic vapours, that over time can cause orange or brown coloured staining on the print; this is referred to as 'acid-burn'. To best protect your valuable print, it should be matted and backed with archival 'rag content' acid-free materials.

Foxing, mould, discolouration and water staining are other problems that can develop on framed hand-pulled prints. Mould is quite understandable but the causes of foxing are not so well understood. One theory is that foxing is caused by a fungal growth on the paper. Another theory is that foxing is caused by the effect of oxidation of iron, copper or other mineral salts within the pulp or rag, from which the paper was made. It is possible that multiple factors are involved, plus humidity will almost always contribute in some way to foxing, discolouring and staining. The results of these detrimental factors though are all reversible through a cleaning, bleaching and deacidification process by a qualified restoration technician.

When it comes to fading on a print, unfortunately not much can be done concerning this type of damage, as nothing can restore the colour vibrancy of an artist's hand-pulled print... this damage is always permanent.

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What is highly filtered water

  1. The water used basically comes from a normal tap, but before the cleaning begins this water is softened to remove desolved limestone and then goes through a series of filtering processes.
  2. It is then filtered through activated carbon to remove any chlorine residue and particulates.
  3. Then it's reverse osmosis filtered (R.O.F).
  4. Ozone bubbles are then added to prevent bacterial growth.
  5. Lastly it passes through an ultraviolet light treatment to insure no bacteria is present.
  6. Only then is this highly filtered water ready for the print cleaning process to begin.

Canadian Online Fine Art Restorations

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Updated November 7, 2023

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