Age Must Not Wither Them
Indian artists are getting their share of fame and famous Indian paintings are selling for unbelievable prices. On a less commercial note, people are increasingly looking at Art and paintings in particular to enhance their décor or to make a statement about who they are or what they like. Whether you buy art for love of paintings or as an investment, i.e. whether your motivation is love or money, you need to look after these valuable pieces.
To understand how to look after a painting, you need to understand what a painting is: a piece of the artist’s soul, an expression of an artist’s feelings, hopes and sufferings. Yes, yes, very true, but on a more practical note, a painting is made up of two parts: the support layer and the image layer. The support layer relates to the canvas or paper that the painting is on plus the supporting frame or stretcher. The image layer relates to “such stuff as dreams are made of” – the painting itself. Artists may use primer and then the paint, which may be oil or water based. Sometimes oil paintings may be varnished to protect the painting or to saturate the colours. The image you see when you look at a painting is an interaction of all these layers. All the layers change and deteriorate and take on different physical characteristics over time – varnish oxidizes with light and air, turning yellow or brown, paint may become brittle, paper may get attacked by insects, in damp environments canvas could grow mildew. Four factors that most affect the health of your painting are temperature, relative humidity, light (i.e. visible light and ultra-violet radiation) and pollution.
Ideally, paintings should be stored at a temperature between 18° to 24° C, which, of course, would put paid to any Indian keeping any paintings for more than two generations. But temperature is not as important as relative humidity levels. As constant air conditioning is not feasible for most, an easier solution is to keep paintings in internal rooms, which are less exposed to outside elements and variations in temperature.
Light is another factor that is hard to control, but UV blocking films on windows are a practical solution and do not block natural light. Do not make the mistake of putting traditional picture lights over your valued paintings. The heat and focused light are very damaging to your paintings. Paintings should not be exposed to direct sunlight. Try to use diffused lighting where you display your pieces.
Regarding dust and pollution. Dusting has to be done with extreme care and should be avoided if there is flaking paint. According to some experts, vacuum cleaners can be used to remove dirt from the back of dusty paintings. Another option is to prop the painting up at a forward angle and brush it carefully, in one direction only; using a clean, soft, dry natural hair artists’ brush, (3.5 cm. to 5 cm. tip). You could even use a make up brush. Never use dusters or feather dusters as these can damage the paint. More serious problems like flaking paint, torn canvas, cracks with lifting edges, wrinkles in the canvas, mould growth, highly discoloured varnish should be left to a professional conservator.
Make sure that your paintings are hung securely. Check on hooks, nails and wires at regular intervals. These, like everything are subject to wear and tear and a huge falling painting can cause damage to itself as well as others. Take especial care when you are moving paintings, two persons should always handle large paintings. Never lift a painting from the top of the frame, hold a painting from the middle of both sides. Handle with clean hands and remove rings, watches or anything that can scrape the surface. Map out your route in advance and prepare the place that you are shifting the painting to. If you have to transport the painting, pack it securely: lay flat pieces of thermacol, cardboard, mat board or such firm material over the front and back of your painting. Then wrap the whole in bubble wrap. Do not keep it wrapped for too long to prevent moisture buildup, which can cause damage to the painting.
With good artwork costing as much, or more, than fine jewellery, wise owners of beautiful paintings should take pains to ensure that the Art they are lucky enough to possess, will be enjoyed for generations to come.