Friday, September 16, 2011

Cleaning a painting? Should I or shouldn't I?

Cleaning paintings is an important concern of collectors. I had a discussion with a lady who had recently purchased a couple paintings from circa the 1930's. She mentioned they had a yellow appearance.  She did not want to "ruin" or "alter" the piece, she was afraid of devaluing it. I explained that the varnish applied by an artist of the 1930's was most likely clear. The aging of the varnish and the circumstances in which the painting has lived over the last 80 yrs has resulted in the yellowing of the varnish. I do not believe the artist intended for the white water of the ocean to appear yellow. Yellow varnish alters the appearance of colors, for example; blue's turn green, pinks turn orange, purples turn brown, white's turn yellow etc...
Above is a detail of the contrast we see daily in the cleaning of old discolored varnishes.  This is a detail of a painting I am working on today.
As with all painting's that come into the lab for cleaning, we do not use home-depot-off-the-shelf cleaners. Each painting is different and reacts differently to the variety of solvents and  mixtures we use. Each painting undergo's a specific and careful evaluation, many tests are preformed to find the best solution which does not compromise the stability or sensitivity of paint.
Thank you for your interest!
For any question's please contact:
Scott Haskins

For any questions regarding appraisals please contact:
Richard Holgate - certified appraiser, member of the International Society of Appraisers

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