Exhibition Previews
Gallery Websites
Conservation Corner

To find gallery listings use search at page top right.


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

Repairing Acid Matte Burn

by Rebecca Pavitt
Conservator, Pacific Conservators
Vancouver, BC

This is the first in a new series of articles about conservation written by professional conservators. We hope you will find them interesting, and welcome any comments, questions or suggestions you may have for us.

The artwork's treatment that I am going to describe here is an interesting case study because it is such an extreme example of the horrors which can lurk behind a picture's seemingly innocent window mat.

Before treatment, front and reverse

After treatment, front and reverse

"Thoughts of Birds", by Mungitok, is printed with heavy layers of ink on thin Japanese style paper. This gives the print an inherent tendency to ripple -- the paper will expand and contract with variations in humidity, while the ink will not. The paper support is discolored overall, and has a darker band of acid mat burn around the opening of the window mat. These are common enough problems, and relatively straightforward to treat. What sets this print apart is the fact that its margins have been glued to the window mat with shellac, green oil paint and masking tape. The "adhesives" have completely soaked into the paper, turning it brown and brittle. There are also large losses at the edges of the margins.

The unusual nature of this damage presented a special challenge. After testing, I discussed treatment options with the owner. The following is a much-condensed version of the actual treatment.

The mat board was first thinned down to its facing paper, and the shellac and green paint reduced with acetone, taking care to avoid the image area. The masking tape adhesive had hardened to a rock-like consistency and had to be softened with heat to allow the paper carrier to be removed. The adhesive was then reduced on the suction table using a variety of organic solvents. Floating the print on a distilled water bath and bleaching with light reduced general discoloration and mat burn. The margins, which were very fragile, were lined with a thin Japanese tissue using wheat starch paste, and losses filled with Japanese paper inserts. The print was then stretch dried to flatten it as much as possible. The final result, while not a total resurrection, greatly improved the overall appearance and longevity of the print.

"Every Piece is Different" is a golden maxim of conservation and "Thoughts of Birds" illustrates this point perfectly. Although I have worked on different editions of this same print, I have never before seen shellac and paint used as adhesives. I probably never will again.

© Rebecca Pavitt

 Fri, Feb 1, 2008