Can Water Damaged Paintings Be Restored?

Learn how to restore water damaged paintings with tips from Lis Art Conservation. Find out what materials are needed for consolidation and drying.

Can Water Damaged Paintings Be Restored?

Water is one of nature's most destructive forces, and no work of art is safe from its effects, especially paintings. If you have a painting that has been damaged by water, Lis Art Conservation can help to reverse the damage and restore it to its original state. The peeling paint can be stabilized and re-adhered to the canvas, and the layers of flake paint can be consolidated in various ways depending on the individual needs of the painting. The most commonly used animal tails for consolidation are fish tail and rabbit fur tail.

Removing stains from works of art on paper is an extremely complex process, and how you do it depends on the paper, ink, printing process, assembly, and much more. The best thing you can do is leave the stains alone if you don't want to do them serious harm. Bleach or hydrogen peroxide will deteriorate the paper if not used in the correct dilution and then thoroughly washed. Washing requires extensive testing to ensure that the process does not change the paper or ink, and these tests require training not only in art but also in preservation and chemistry.

To dry structurally safe paints, place several layers of blotting paper on a table. Add a layer of absorbent paper. Remove the frame from the picture but leave it attached to the stretcher. Place it on the surface facing down while confirming that the paper is not wrinkled.

If the painting has been in water for some time, do not touch it. Use a sturdy piece of cardboard to gently pick it up underneath and place it on cardboard. Take it to a conservator as soon as possible. If a photograph is framed and glued to glass, don't try to remove it. Remove the frame and let it dry with the glass side down on a countertop and take it to a conservator.

My challenge was to deal with water-damaged works of art that were lying on the ground in several inches of water. While my experience running a maintenance business meant I knew how to deal with the house, I had no experience handling water-damaged artwork. Paper is very vulnerable to water damage when wet, so this procedure MUST be completed by a professional restorer. If you live in an apartment building, sometimes a problem with a water heater or an overflowing bathroom fixture in an upstairs unit can cause water-related problems to residents below. Using the following procedures listed below will help stabilize water-damaged artwork and prevent further damage from occurring; once the artwork has stabilized, consult a conservator for recommendations on any conservation or restoration that may be necessary. The Oliver Brothers website has more tips on how to dry books, photographs, and more, so you may want to check out their article on Water Damaged Art.

Paints and their composites will have their own individual response when exposed to moisture and water damage. The damage caused by water sounds significant; however, it can be successfully counteracted with preservation treatments so you can continue to enjoy your painting.

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