Damaged Art: Sometimes the best thing to do is nothing at all!

By Kelly Rose Almeida, Guest Blogger
Botched art restorations have happened through out the world in private and public collections. A very public example happened this summer, when an 80 year old woman named Cecilia Giménez attempted to fix a fresco of her favorite depiction of Christ in a local church in Spain. She was so disturbed by its state of disrepair she thought she would lend a helping hand and reapply a layer of paint and stucco to replicate the beauty she once remembered. Sadly, she was not professionally trained, and the fresco was damaged almost beyond repair. Although Cecilia Giménez attempted to reestablish the fresco in hopes of it looking like the artist’s original portrait, sometimes the best intentions have to worst consequences, especially when it comes to art. Sorrowfully, this is not an isolated case. CLICK HERE to see comments on the “restoration” by a professional painting conservator.

The three versions of the “ecce homo” fresco of Jesus. From left, the original version by Elías García Martínez, a 19th-century painter; a deteriorated version of the fresco; the restored version by Cecilia Giménez, complements of the New York Times.

In Santa Barbara, Fine Art Conservation Laboratories, which does painting conservation for clients all over the USA, receives paintings that have been worked on by owners who wanted to see their favorite artwork repaired, but were ill equipped to do it right. A recent botched job was a very nice and expensive 1890’s painting of a landscape that had several tears in the canvas. The owner tried to patch up these rips using spare pieces of fabric, animal glue, and painter’s tape. However, once the patches were applied to the back of the canvas, the surrounding canvas began to expand and contract at a different speed than the patched area,

causing cracks to form in the paint and producing flaking and large bulges. Here is a YouTube video that clearly shows the problem: Click here… Patching paintings

Mountain landscape with lake and Teepees c. 1890. Front and back of a painting that was repaired by a patron, which caused more damage than good. Obviously the best solution to this issue is to bring your painting as soon as possible to a local conservator. They have the proper tools and knowledge to revive your painting to its original state, retaining its value and beauty. If taking your painting to a conservator to be properly repaired is not in your budget, sometimes the best thing to do in order to save a painting that is already damaged is nothing at all. This may seem as if you are neglecting your art, but it may be the best idea At this point, all you can do now is properly store your painting until you are able to bring it to a professional. This will help your painting to prevent the damage from progressing. First thing is to find the ideal environment. Dramatic increases or decreases in temperature can cause buckling in the canvas or cracking in the paint, which is what occurred in the example above. If your attic or basement is climate controlled, this would be the ultimate place to store your paintings. There is less movement, making it unlikely for your painting to be nicked by constant traffic. If not, a closet or spare room would be best. Also, make sure that when you store these paintings, that they are raised above the ground to prevent water damage and mold. If you have more than one painting, separate each painting by using cardboard or any other sturdy material. This will prevent the corners of any given object form puncturing the canvases. Another way to prevent this would be to put a foam backing on the paintings to avoid foreign object from entering from the back, which will create flacking in the paint over time. After you create this environment, always check on your paintings a few times a year. Make sure that nothing has shifted over time that may cause excess damage to your paintings you have tried so hard to protect. Showing restraint will, in the long run, help your paintings the most.

Art conservation questions? Call Scott M. Haskins 805 564 3438 Art appraisal questions? Call Richard Holgate 805 895 5121 Follow us on Facebook at Scott M. Haskins and at Save Your Stuff

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