Everything to Know About Conservation Art Framing

The Importance of Conservation Art Framing

Preserving works of art is almost an art form in itself. Whether it’s touching up paintings or trying to fix a gilded object, there is a lot of time, expertise, and resources involved in art conservation. However, there is an important part of art conservation that isn’t frequently mentioned in discussions about the process: conservation art framing.

Though it might seem like an insignificant and unknown field, conservation art framing is very important. The name also serves many purposes—though it is important for protecting a painting, proper art conservation framing can also improve the quality of the paint itself. It is also a very thorough practice, with potential mistakes being near-fatal to the work (a wrong frame can damage a piece of art over time).

What “conservation” means largely varies depending on the situation. For example, a painting may have damage done to it, but it doesn’t need a specific frame to enhance it. In this situation, a frame will typically be used just to make sure that no further damage is done to the painting. However, there are other situations in which it isn’t only important to have conservation art framing, but essential to the longevity of the painting’s life. It can also be essential to the quality of the artwork, as oftentimes paintings will fade with age. If a work is too damaged, it becomes even more difficult to restore it, making conservation an essential part of maintaining a collection of art.

How is it Done?

The first step that is debated when someone begins framing a piece of art for conservation purposes is whether or not they should use the original frame. Not using the original frame typically lowers the value of a painting, but it’s more likely than not that a new frame is used. If they decide to keep the frame the piece came with, it requires extensive cleaning in order to make sure that the original artistic intentions of the frame is retained while also making it ready for conservation purposes.

Once the frame is cleaned, a mount is designed. This mount typically rests between the painting and the frame with a strip of reinforcement to make sure that it does not shift. It is a board that the painting rests on, separating it from the frame and putting it next to the glass. Depending on the type of art that is used, the specific type of mounting material might be changed. For example, photographs are typically not compatible with a mounts that involve alkaline due to its potential to harm the photo, so it is more common to use cotton, making sure that it is unbuffered.

An incredibly important part about the framing process is that a painting can never be stuck down to a mount manually. This is because restricting the movement can decrease the life of the painting by having too much excessive pulling on the paper itself.

Once the properties of the frame are decided upon, the painting is then mounted a certain distance away from the glass depending on the material it is. For example, it’s best to put chalk drawings about 6mm away from the glass. These measurements can naturally vary as well depending on the person who is framing them and their personal discretion.

After everything is determined for how the painting should be adhered to the frame, a back board is designed. Back boards are typically made of very stable materials that go well with the painting’s original materials. Once the proper material is found, the proper fittings must be assigned. These are typically judged by the tension they put on the artwork with the eventual goal being not to stress out the piece itself.

Through careful preparation and adherence to rules, conservation art framing makes it possible for a piece of artwork to not only be properly preserved, but enriched for future audiences.

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About the author: Wifred Murray

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