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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

Before treatment: large tears

Before treatment: large tears to the canvas on upper left

To Line or Not to Line:
Structural Remedies for Canvas Paintings

by Nadine Power
Fine Art Conservator

In 2006, when Las Vegas hotel tycoon, Steve Wynn, famously put his elbow through Picasso’s Le Rêve, a collective cringe rippled through the conservation world. It was not just the heartbreaking damage to a masterpiece that made the incident so horrendous, nor was it the fact that the accident nullified Wynn’s deal to sell the work for $139 million to Steven A. Cohen, but those who have repaired canvas tears knew that the work involved in restoring the painting would certainly be difficult.

In historic conservation processes, it would have often been necessary to line a canvas such as Le Rêve to repair the damage. Lining is a centuries-old process that involves gluing a second fabric backing to a weakened or damaged canvas to provide structural support to a fragile painting. Traditional linings used animal-based glue paste or wax-resin mixtures to attach the fabric to the canvas, and a heated iron and/or a large press were then used to flatten the two fabrics together. Although often very effective, the treatments were invasive, harsh, and occasionally resulted in the flattening of impasto, impregnation of the paint with wax, or even shrinking of the original canvas.

After treatment: detail

After treatment: detail of mended tear from the back

Still today, lining can be a necessary step in the preservation of a work of art and is often chosen by conservators when treating very old or badly damaged art works. The 20th-century development of new adhesives and fabrics have improved the lining process considerably, making it a more controllable one. Advancements have reduced the amount of heat, moisture and pressure required, and have also increased the reversibility of a lined painting. Repairs to the painting Still Life with Flowers by April Banyack is an example where, although lining would have been an appropriate choice due to the severity of the tears, less invasive treatment methods were considered.

Still Life with Flowers was torn in several places when it fell off the wall onto the back of a chair. Painted in 1954, the canvas was in relatively good condition although some weakening around the tacking margins was noted. After surface cleaning and varnish removal, the tears were carefully rewoven, using both the original fibres and canvas thread inserts secured with welding powder and a hot tacking iron. Tear mending, although often extremely time consuming, can be a rewarding alternative to lining, and when properly executed, is practically invisible when viewed from both the front and back.

Because this painting was weak around its tacking edge, the decision was also made to strip line the painting. Strip lining is a technique that introduces adhesive and a backing fabric only around the exterior edges of the work, where a canvas is often the weakest, providing the necessary support for restretching the canvas onto its stretcher bars. After the structural treatments, the painting was filled and retouched to replace lost paint around the tear areas and then varnished.

Although lining would have been a faster method and certainly would have been an effective treatment for mending the tears, the concern for the integrity of the original canvas and the artwork as a historic object influenced the decision to mend by reweaving.

next issue:

Previously: Organizing and Preserving Collections - Part 4: Digital material
Next issue: Modern Materials: The Restoration of two murals in the Simon Fraser University Theatre – Part I

Before treatment: tears from the back

Before treatment: tears from the back


 Fri, Nov 4, 2011