Dredge on Barge Painting by Unknown Artist

This oil painting came in with a heavy amount of surface contaminates, a mold invasion, and craquelures. Craquelures are the fissure-looking lines that appear due to the layers of the painting, including the canvas, drying at different times, and then rubbing against each other.

After the painting was de-fit, we noticed how brittle the canvas was, and how the stretcher bar had claimed a section of its perimeter. New Belgian linen was archivally adhered to the reverse using a heat press. This greatly increased the foundational strength, which is one of the major causes for the craquelures; the heat press had the added benefit of helping to lay the craquelures flat.

Cleaning progressed until the whole paint surface had been completed. This turned out to be one of those cases that, when you think you’re done cleaning, you find out that there are even more layers. We switched to a secondary cleaning method that, chemically, has certain advantages, and the results were rather impressive in that it seemed like we removed as much dirt on the second cleaning as the first. There even emerged another person, as the derrick operator was rather hard to see before any of the cleaning.

In-filling was used on the areas of loss, which are common when consolidating craquelures. In-painting matched colors to the original. It was decided by the client to not salvage the signature, which had been largely compromised as it was on the extreme bottom-right corner, where it had tucked around the stretcher bar and sat and rubbed against the frame. This painting has lovely qualities, though, and now that it’s clean the intricacies of the brushstrokes and the dynamic play of the colors have brought the painting back to a state that it would now be about ready for the painter to sign it. A frame is forthcoming, but it’s important not to commit to a frame style and color until the painting has been cleaned and the true colors revealed. Stay tuned for more…

Before and After.

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