Close Encounters with Vintage Artwork

     Many of the projects brought into our shop are older works of art which need some special attention.  Works on paper framed decades or centuries ago are often in need of the most care.  I’m posting here some images which exemplify  some of what we see when we disassemble framed works of art on paper.  When the value of the work warrants, we end up referring the client to a paper conservator before we put the work into a new frame package or back into the original frame. 


a close-up of the damage done with acidic matting
a close-up of the damage done with acidic matting
We framers are thankful for archival rag mats and uv-filtering glazing options.  The mats of old were highly acidic pulp boards which literally burned works of art on paper.  The double border on the upper right in the image above shows a mild version of what these old matboards do to art.  A paper conservator can often remove the damage done, however without archival glass, sunlight tends to fade most watercolors, the more fugitive pigments change first–that’s why sometimes old watercolors have a monochrome or bluish cast to them.  All the other pigments–reds, greens, yellows—have faded in the sun
this isn't acid-etched, it's from moisture between the glass and artwork
this isn't acid-etched, it's from moisture between the glass and artwork
Sometimes picture framers would insert artwork right into the frame package with no mat.  When there is no airspace provided, humidity tends to build up and often the framed image’s outline is transferred to the glass.  I kept this piece of glass in the image above as an example to show clients why we need to use spacers, liners, or mats when framing their art.  This foggy image transfer is most often seen with serigraphs (shown above) needleart(such as samplers) or etchings (the raised ink outline ends up being transferred to the glass)
the damage is done from masking tape!
the damage is done from masking tape!

The image above shows a number of Horrorshows we see in our shop.  The pulp board matting burns a yellow outline onto the print paper.  The print is also burned onto the pulpboard outline.  Masking Tape!!  Often a commonly used material to mount pictures into matting, but definitely the worst to use.  As it ages it becomes brittle and the adhesive ends up decaying into minute pieces which spread out all over the work table when you disassemble old framed pieces.  Masking tape is highly acidic and tends to leave dark burns onto prints and works on paper. 

I hope you enjoyed this sampling of some Close Encounters we have had in our shop! Please feel free to contact me about any art conservation questions you may have.

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