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TECHNIQUE - SUPPORT - FRAMING

The Supports and the Techniques
Depending upon the types of supports and the techniques employed, the preservation of the artworks and their colours over a period of time requires the observation of certain rules. The value of a painting depends upon the precautions that are taken to preserve it over time.

As time goes by...

Paintings age and can show certain alterations:
- the painting becomes sallow or dirty
- the varnish changes, darkens and obscures the visibility of the painting
- dust and smoke “attack” engravings, watercolours and drawings.

To avoid these disagreeable situations, it is necessary to respect some simple rules:

Generally speaking, supports and colours are sensitive to variations in the humidity of room temperature, which can lead to changes in the level of the pictorial layer. So it is extremely necessary to protect painted works from any brutal changes in climate. Be certain that the lighting of a painting does not exceed 150 lux and try to eliminate to the maximum the ultraviolet rays already present in the light (whether natural or artificial). The light should be uniformly spread out: otherwise, a ray of sunlight (or moonlight) returning each day to cast light on the same zone may certainly alter the hues. On the reverse side, a place that is too dark will increase the darkening. Finally, avoid placing a painting above a source of heat (chimney or radiator) or hanging a painting against a cold or humid wall.

Artworks on paper

Since drawings and watercolours must never be washed or gummed, it is always best to frame them, to avoid all contact with the exterior:
- Use non-acidic paper
- Charcoal, dry pastel, graphite and crayon drawings should all be covered correctly with a fixative. Be generous with the quantity, especially for dry pastels.
- The best way of protecting your finished pastels is to have them professionally framed under glass and with a passe-partout to keep them from touching the interior surface of the protective glass.

Oil paintings

The best canvasses are stretched on wooden frames with corners that allow for retightening if necessary.
Canvasses, panels and cartons are classified by size and follow a thematic definition according to their format. This definition corresponds to a relation between the length and the width of the frame.
There is the “Figure,” the “Landscape” and the “Seascape.” The “Figure” format is closer to being square, the “Landscape” more rectangular and the “Seascape” much more elongated. (Ex: 10F = 55 x 46 cm).


F - FIGURE P - PAYSAGE M - MARINE
0 18 x 14 18 x 12 18 x 10
1 22 x 16 22 x 14 22 x 12
2 24 x 19 24 x 16 24 x 14
3 27 x 22 27 x 19 27 x 16
4 33 x 24 33 x 22 33 x 19
5 35 x 27 35 x 24 35 x 22
6 41 x 33 41 x 27 41 x 24
8 46 x 38 46 x 33 46 x 27
10 55 x 46 55 x 38 55 x 33
12 61 x 50 61 x 46 61 x 38
15 65 x 54 65 x 50 65 x 46
20 73 x 60 73 x 54 73 x 50
25 81 x 65 81 x 60 81 x 54
30 92 x 73 92 x 65 92 x 60
40 100 x 81 100 x 73 100 x 65
50 116 x 89 116 x 81 116 x 73
60 130 x 97 130 x 89 130 x 81
80 146 x 114 146 x 97 146 x 89
100 162 x 130 162 x 114 162 x 97
120 195 x 130 195 x 114 195 x 97
The wooden support with medium, when it is worked within the rules of the art, is of fine quality. It is rarely used for the large formats.
For more information (in French), there is the book by Michèle Dhont: Encadrement, Histoire et techniques (Edition l’Inédite).
Framing
The work is a gem and the frame is its case. The framing should place it in value without overwhelming it. Given the nature of the work, the processes are different, but the principles remain the same :

Un carton

A non-acidic (pH neutral) carton and an adapted glass (classic, non-reflective or Mirogard, as used at the Louvre) will protect it from dust, humidity and insects.

A bevel

A bevel will give an impression of depth to the work: French, English, round, oval, "perroquet", overlapping...

A Passe-partout

A passe-partout will be dressed in tissue or in paper, with a large choice of colours, motives and mediums: fibre, silk, “à la cuve” or binding paper… Older works will be flattered by a wash drawing.

A moulding

A moulding will finish the composition: a burr, an antique gilded moulding, united modern or patterned, with or without relief…
All these elements will be assembled to correspond to the finest definition of the word “Harmony”: "The relationship existing among the different parts of an entity which gives these parts an aspect of unity."

Antique frames

A framing close to what the contemporary framing of the work would have been is always preferable. If the right antique frame cannot be found, a new frame with the which takes in the taste of the epoch can be used.

The market for antique frames has developed a lot in the past 20 years, and it is possible to acquire them on public sale or at a specialized dealer. Certain restorers are equally competent at putting antique frames into shape. This type of framing or restoration is reserved for works having a certain value.

Finally, it is important to go to a competent picture framer. So many errors have been committed in compromising the conservation of a work to an incompetent! A work of art is composed of more-or-less stable materials which require special conditions. Special attention then to microclimates favourable to insects and other putrefactions. For works on paper, it is obviously advised not to use acid mediums or any sorts of glue. Attention also to unscrupulous picture framers who cut the edges of drawings or prints. In brief, framing depends as much upon the art of decoration as on the science of conservation.


The colours

In general: Use a dark frame for a light subject and, inversely, a light frame for a dark subject.
The colour of the framing and the frame should be assorted to the tints of the subjects without ever accentuating the dominant colour. The light surfaces appear, in equal dimensions, much larger than the dark surfaces, but a light passe-partout makes the subject appear smaller and a dark passe-partout makes the subject appear larger. The value of a tone is more important than its colour: yellow and blue, which are primary colours, give a sad result, but light yellow and pale blue harmonise perfectly. Just as rose and blue harmonise, red and blue destroy each other. Be careful of pure white, which is a composite of all the colours, but a white note in the framework accords the colours with each other: the blue recedes, the yellow – complement of the white – advances. Black is to be avoided, replaced by different shades of grey or dark browns.

Restoration of a painting

A painting in bad shape loses a part of its value. Not every work of art merits restoration under any condition. The price of the restoration should remain proportional to the commercial or sentimental value of the work.

- Cleaning a painting consists of more-or-less “lightening” the varnish which protects it, which means totally or partially removing the cover painting, either from subsequent additions or from earlier restorations.
- Restoring a painting can also consist of reinforcing those torn or “cooked” parts of the canvas and practicing certain paint retouching. In every case, this is the work of a specialist. To avoid causing irreparable damages, it is necessary to work with a restoration specialist. He can make a diagnostic and give you an estimate before any intervention.