How to take care of your oil painting

Picasso Painting

How to take care of your oil painting

Whether you’re purchasing an original painting or a reproduction, it is important to know how to properly care for your artwork. With proper care and handling, you will protect the artwork from deterioration and preserve its beauty. This guide will help you take proper care of your oil painting – watercolors must be treated differently, and are far less durable than our preferred medium of oil on canvas.

Handling and Transporting
First, the obvious: when handling a painting, make sure that there is nothing on your body is likely to scratch or tear the painting (i.e. some rings, belt buckles, watches, etc.). When transporting a framed artwork, lay a piece of cardboard over the front and back of the painting (not on the surface, but over the frame) then cover it with bubble wrap. Always hold the painting from both vertical sides. Do not hold the painting by the top of the frame or the hanging wire.

Light
To keep the colors in your painting sharp, do not display the artwork in direct sunlight. Avoid using ultraviolet light, which can cause discoloration to the painting. Use low frequency bulb or diffused spotlights that are mounted at least 10 feet away to avoid heat build-up (obviously, custom made painting display lights are fine). It is worth noting that in our experience paintings hung in direct sunlight have not deteriorated even over a period of years, but it is best to be on the safe side.

Temperature and Humidity
Monitor the environment where the painting is displayed. Keep the fluctuations in temperature and humidity to a minimum. Changes in temperature may cause the painting to stretch or shrink. Keep the painting away from heat sources like furnaces, fire places and direct sunlight.

Displaying and Storing
The painting should ideally be displayed at eye level, unless the interior design means an above eye-level view is preferable. Avoid hanging the painting where people may bump into it. To avoid deforming the canvas, do not lean the painting against a pointed object. When hanging a painting on wall hooks, make sure that the wall hooks are driven into the wall studs for maximum stability. For large, heavy paintings, particularly those with a thick and deep frame, use a bracket under the painting to support its weight.

Store the artwork in a room with constant temperature. Avoid storing paintings in rooms with excessive humidity (i.e. attic, basement) as this can cause mold to form on the painting. Routinely examine the painting for pests. If infestation is found, isolate the painting in a plastic bag and have it examined by a professional.

Our experience: We have seen many paintings with a mold problem, and they can usually be easily cleaned. However, the only painting in our studio that was ever damaged beyond repair – after two years of being stored in a dusty outbuilding – was ruined by termites. They had eaten through the frame and parts of the canvas, essentially destroying the painting. So while oil paintings are remarkably durable, they are certainly not invulnerable.

Cleaning
Dust your painting regularly to avoid a build-up of dust. Use a clean soft artist brush or lint cloth to clean the painting. Do not use dust cloths or feather dusters to avoid scratching or contaminating the painting with the cleaning material. Moisture may cause loss of paint so avoid using moist cloths. If the painting is thickly textured (like some of Van Gogh’s art), be gentle with any cleaning as the lumps of paint may get caught on the cloth and torn off the painting.

Finally, oil paintings are remarkably durable, which is why we are able to view paintings from many hundreds of years ago in museums today. The biggest risk is the accidental one…such as when casino tycoon Steve Wynn put his elbow through a famous Picasso, causing the cancellation of an agreed $139 million sale!

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