Caring for your paintings and prints

I recently had a client ask me if it was okay to hang an original oil painting in a master bathroom. Since this is a bathroom that would be used often for showering, I advised against it. It is best to avoid exposing oil paintings on canvas to extreme temperatures and extreme humidity. This is why museums store work in a climate controlled environment. While we all can't go around monitoring the minute temperature changes in our homes, we can still take some basic measures to ensure the artwork is properly cared for. Here are a few tips:

  • Avoid hanging any work of art in direct sunlight for a prolonged period. Prints and works on paper risk fading, even when they are framed under protective UV glass. Oils can actually darken over time if exposed to strong sunlight for prolonged periods.
  • Works on paper should always be hung under glass for protection. UV filtered glass is preferred. However, avoid touching the glass directly to the work of art, as glass may contain some acids and chemicals that are damaging to papers. Professional picture framers use acid-free matting or other materials as a buffer to raise the glass off of the surface of the artwork.
  • As mentioned above, avoid extreme heat, extreme cold, and extreme humidity. All of these conditions can alter the condition of a work of art. Extreme temperature changes can cause painting supports to expand, contract, and warp. Oils on canvas can crack and chip if subjected to these constant insults.
  • Carry oils on canvas by the frame, or the outer edge of the stretcher bars. Avoid looping your fingers under the stretcher bars so that they grip the painting between the canvas and the stretcher. This can loosen and stretch the painting away from the stretcher.
  • Likewise, take care in leaning a canvas to anything, unless you are only letting the outer stretcher bar or frame touch the other object. Any thing leaning on the canvas itself can cause puckering and stretching of the canvas.
  • It is a fine idea to lightly dust your painting from time to time with a clean soft cloth or brush. Dust with a dry cloth only; do not clean with any other substance (like water, solvents, etc.)
  • In the unfortunate event that your painting is damaged in some way, contact a professional conservator in your area, as often repair and restoration is a viable option.