protect oil painting

How to protect oil paintings: storing, cleaning and conserving

As an artist for over 20 years, I understand how important is to protect oil paintings. Learning through experience and research, I’ve gathered together my essential tips for storing and protecting your treasured piece of art.  

There is a reason oil paint has been the preferred medium of artists for hundreds of years. Oil paintings, if correctly prepared, are surprisingly strong. 

Where to Display Oil Paintings

The first step in protecting your oil painting is to choose an appropriate location to display it. Oil paintings are surprisingly strong, but subject to humidity.  I suggest selecting a place with a stable environment without  fluctuations in temperature anf humidity. Ideal locations include a indoor room, a cabinet, or a shelf away from direct sunlight. Avoid storing your painting in areas prone to moisture, such as bathrooms, basements or attics as this can cause mold and mildew growth. 

Packing and Transporting Oil Paintings

If you need to transport or store your oil painting, it is essential to use the appropriate materials to avoid damage. I recommend wrapping the painting in acid-free paper and then securing it with a layer of foam or corrugated cardboard. Avoid using plastic wraps or covers directly in contact with the paint as these can cause the paint to stick or become damaged. 

How to Protect the Oil Painting Surface 

The surface of an oil painting is the most vulnerable part, and it is essential to protect it from dust, dirt, and scratches. All of my oil paintings  have a protective layer of professional artist varnish.  Varnish provides a barrier against dust and dirt, and it also enhances the colors in the painting. However, it is essential to wait until the paint has fully cured before applying varnish, which can take several months.

Handing Oil Paintings

One of the most significant threats to an oil painting’s surface is oil and dirt from our hands. To protect your oil painting from fungus, make sure your hands ar clean and dry.  Avoid touching the surface of the painting as much as possible. Instead, hold the painting by the frame or the back support. 

Humidity and Temperature Levels for Oil Paintings

Humidity and temperature are two of the most significant factors that can affect the condition of an oil painting. High humidity levels can cause the paint to crack, while low humidity levels can cause the canvas to shrink and become brittle. Ideally, the humidity level should be between 40-60%, and the temperature should be between 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit. That said, a properly prepared canvas should be able to withstand quite a lot. In my lifetime, I have not experienced paint cracking on any of my works. 

Cleaning Oil Paintings

Regular cleaning and inspection of your oil paintings can help to detect any signs of damage or deterioration before they become irreversible. Use a soft, lint-free cloth or a brush to remove any dust from the surface of the painting. Inspect the back of the painting for any signs of discoloration or mold, and if you notice any issues, contact the artist to discuss how to correct the issues. 

Invest in Professional Framing

Investing in professional framing can not only enhance the appearance of your oil painting but also provide added protection. A high-quality frame can help to prevent damage caused by external elements, such as light and moisture. It can also provide additional support to the painting’s structure and prevent warping of the stretcher bars. 

Oil Painting Damage

Many years ago, I had an oil painting I purchased damaged in a move. What I did not realize at the time is that I could have reached out to the artist for repairs. Instead, it ended up in the trash. With my own work, I will always offer assistance in repairing a damaged artwork. If you find yourself with a damaged piece of art, always try to reach out to the creator first. Other avenues would be professional restorers which you can often find through antique shops or listed online.

Oil paintings are not just aesthetically valuable but also hold significant monetary and sentimental value. Therefore, it is crucial to take the necessary precautions to ensure that they remain in good condition for years to come. 

By following these tips, you can help to preserve your oil paintings for generations to come. Remember that prevention is always better than cure, so taking the necessary precautions and seeking professional help when needed can save you time and money in the long run. 

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