What It Means to Restore Art…

You've probably always had an old painting or artwork hanging somewhere; hence, the occasional question of when and how you should restore it might have crossed your mind.


Here it's important to know the difference between preservation, conservation, restoration, and renovation. Preservation keeps the object away from destruction, but does not care about its final appearance.


Similarly, conservation aims at preserving the absolute maximum amount of original material in an unaltered state; all repairs must be removable without affecting the original state of the painting. It dictates how the object should be treated and does not involve artistic choice or material experimentation on it. Restoration, on the other hand, refers to "bringing back into former position", doing whatever is necessary to return the object's appearance to the most desirable period of its life. As for renovation, it simply means making an object look new without regard to its historical importance or method of construction .


Since art comes in different varieties, there are varying methods of restoring it. Art prints are easier to restore than antique framed art. Holes can easily be fixed by gluing small pieces of paper; wrinkles can be taken care of by dampening a sponge and lightly blotting wrinkled areas, then placing them under a few weighted boards. Citric or oxalic acid mixed with water can remove ink marks, while alcohol or benzene can remove oil spots. 


On the other hand, antique framed art requires professional art restorers who are adept at color sealing, and cleaning using neutralizing agents. As for oil paintings, though they can be restored without special skill, they require extreme care.  


To determine whether you should start restoring or not, keep in mind that a painting begins to age as soon as it is made. The decision is entirely up to you. Paintings gather dust in the same way as curtains and walls in your home. The pale rectangle a painting leaves behind after being carefully removed from a wall is an indication of the dust accumulated on its surface.


Likewise, if a darker color is left behind, this indicates damage caused by sunlight. Atmospheric conditions, changes in temperature, sunlight all affect your painting resulting in bloom, cloudy or dull spots. In such cases, restorers recommend cleaning the painting, and replacing the varnish. Though the binding agent used to create the paints may be consistent, the different pigments used to color the paint will contain different minerals which will expand and contract in different ways over the paintings' lifetime.


These movements as well as aging create cracks in the long run. It might seem easy to remove discolored varnish and apply small touch ups that match old oil paints; however, in extreme cases like tear, fire, and water damage, it's preferable to contact a professional restorer.




Sign in to your account to get exclusive access to new works, receive personalised experiences and place bids.

Forgot your password?