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Seeing in Different Ways: A Liz Magor Backpack Project
Seeing in Different Ways:
A Liz Magor Backpack Project

Why Paper Discolours (Part 2)
Why Paper Discolours (Part 2)

Why Paper Discolours (Part 1)
Why Paper Discolours (Part 1)

Mending a Tear in an Aboriginal Drum
Mending a Tear in an Aboriginal Drum

Distortions and Dimensional Changes
in Paper (Part 3)
Distortions and Dimensional Changes
in Paper (Part 3)

Distortions and Dimensional Changes
in Paper (Part 2)

Distortions and Dimensional Changes
in Paper (Part 1)

After treatment
Oscar Cahén: Innovative Conservation
for an Innovative Artist

Rigid Water Gels: New Treatment Options for Paper Conservators

Structural Remedies for Canvas Paintings

Organizing and Preserving Collections - Part 4: Digital-based Material

Organizing and Preserving Collections - Part 3: Photo-based Material

Organizing and Preserving Collections - Part 2: Paper-based Material

First Steps
Organizing and Preserving Collections - Part 1: The First Steps

Natural Dyes
The Use of Natural Dyes in Textile Conservation

A Relocation Project

Challenges of Preserving Contemporary Artwork

Preserve Your Investment through Art Conservation

A Project Completed: Heritage Preserved

Old and New Methods for Cleaning Paintings

I Can See Clearly Now – Or Can I? Part 2

I Can See Clearly Now – Or Can I?

The E.J. Hughes Mural: An Expanded Project

Is She or Is She Not an Emily

Treating Art with Sensitive Media

Malaspina Mural: An Update

For the Artist: Testing Your Materials

Conservator as Art Historian

Alum Sizing and the Art of W.J. Phillips

Treatment of an Elizabeth Keith Wood Block Print

Structural Treatment of an Emily Carr

The Treatment of a Monumental Wall Hanging

Changing Images

Preserving a Rare Record

Gold Leaf: Imitation and Genuine

The Case Against Canvas Backings

Heritage Colours: Research Discovers Original Colours

Lighting Your Art: Balancing Seeing and Protecting

The Double-Sided Emily Carr Painting

Choosing a Period Picture Frame

How to Identify a Picture Frame

Stretching Canvas and Restretching Artwork

Mounting Textiles

Aging Paintings:
Some Causes and Effects

Chine Collé Prints

What's Your Favourite Color?

Backing Removals

Rips, Holes and Tears

Filling in the Gaps

DIY – Preventative Care of Paintings

Frame it Right

Fire, Water and Smoke-Damaged Paintings

Inherent Vice

Saturated Problems:
A Water-Damaged Painting

Moldy Paper

Conserving Time

Conserving Paper: Dos and Don'ts

Repair of Textiles

Conserving Wood

Rescuing Endangered Murals

Repairing Acid-Matte Burn

Art Services & Materials
Exhibition Openings & Events

Conservation Corner Back

Aging Paintings: Some Causes and Effects

by Cheryle Harrison
Pacific Conservators

All materials change with the passage of time, and react to the effects of handling and environment. Materials also interact with each other. An aspect of the conservation profession is a perpetual assessment of materials – the sources of materials, their use, how they change, and why.

White fungus on an oil on canvas painting.

Paintings are basically layers of materials applied upon a support. A support may be any type of material, such as canvas, panel, paper, metal, bone or stone. Contemporary artwork may include whatever materials an artist's inventive mind can imagine.

Initially, materials may have alluring malleable and aesthetic qualities. Temperature, light, moisture, and natural degeneration affect materials. Heat and light accelerate aging. Materials become brittle and degrade. Panels or canvas supports may warp or develop wave-like distortion. Materials may also flake, fade, or darken. Moisture can stain and decay materials. Bloom resulting from high humidity is a whitish haze that can visually disfigure an artwork's surface. If a material is too wet, fungus may occur, and the material may just “slush” away.

One elementary interaction of materials is the contraction and expansion that occurs due to changes in humidity and temperature. As a material ages it becomes less capable of recovering from these natural physical actions.

Cracking on an oil on canvas painting.

There are also cracks or craquelure. In conservation, crack classifications are defined as primary, secondary, and mechanical. Primary craquelure can develop in the ground, paint, or varnish layers as the artwork dries, for example, when a faster drying layer is applied over a slower drying layer or within extremely thick or lean layers of paint. Artificial dryers and additives to paint can make it crack. In the 19th century, the use of bitumen often caused alligator crack patterns that deformed many paintings. Sometimes painters intentionally induce crack patterns for contrived signs of corrosion and synthetic patinas.

Secondary cracks develop as a response to aging and environmental stresses. Desiccated layers may crack, separate and detach. Fine cracking or crazing occurs when a varnish layer becomes very old. Problems may arise if heavy applications of paint or weighty mixed media are used on comparatively scant supports. Thick paint pulls away from a canvas support or the canvas shrinks, sags or distorts. A panel painting may develop cracks due to the shrinkage of the wood. Structural weakness or damage to an artwork may develop over time.

Mechanical cracks are the result of outside influences. Crack rings or spirals can occur when an object is knocked against an artwork. Scratches or rubbed areas may result in feather pattern cracks. Fragile areas require professional care by a trained conservator.

A patina of stable cracks is a part of an artwork's character, charm and history. When viewing an artwork, its collection of cracks can offer insight into its past. Be a detective. What is your artwork telling you?

For more information visit the FACTS (Fine Art Care and Treatment Standards) website at www.artfacts.org.

Last issue: Chine Collé Prints
Next issue: Mounting Textiles

 Fri, Feb 1, 2008