What needs to be matted and why

Written by pagewaterman on . Posted in Blog

One of the questions I get so frequently from customers is why they need a mat on their artwork. Sometimes it is an issue of space on their wall, cost of materials, wanting it to look more like an oil painting or some other reason completely, but they do not want a mat.

In addition to aesthetic reasons, a mat performs several functions. Here are just a few:

  • A mat creates space between your artwork, document, photo or whatever you are framing and the glass that is protecting it. Just like with a cold glass of ice-water, condensation can and will occur with moisture present, and that space allows that moisture to evaporate before coming into contact with the precious item you are framing. Why is this so important? Because, when paper is made, there are always minerals and tiny bits of materials that are susceptible to oxidization when they come into contact with water. This, in the world of paper, framing and restoration, is commonly referred to as “Foxing”. You may know it better as those pesky little rust spots on your old books and the poorly framed prints at your Grandparents house.

  • Paper expands and contacts. All those ripples and ridges you see in framed pieces without mats is almost always caused by the paper butting up against the rabbet (where the wood is routed) of the frame. Mats allow the paper to be hinged correctly and lay flat, with plenty of distance from the frame. Unless the artwork is dry-mounted to a rigid board, which is a permanent process that devalues the art and is never a good option for anything but an easily replaceable poster or photo, that space under the lip of the frame is very important for the preservation of your paper artwork.

  • And, even if the artwork is dry-mounted, photos and glossy prints/posters can stick to glass. I see it all the time and am far too often the bearer of bad news. Someone comes into the gallery with a sentimental, irreplaceable photograph, forever stuck to the glass in a cheap 4”x6” or 5”x7” frame. Unfortunately, even the most experienced conservators can’t help them at that point.

There are plenty more reasons to mat your artwork, but hopefully you get the point. Take care of your artwork, documents and photographs – you may not value you them so much now but in the future, either you or your relatives will be thankful you put a little more effort in to make sure they were preserved.

Why Painting Restoration?

Written by pagewaterman on . Posted in Blog

Restoration is an integral step in the life of a painting. As important as varnishing, priming the canvas and every other process that was used to create your valued artwork. Even with proper care and an ideal environment, paintings are intended to be restored every few decades so that they can be enjoyed and viewed as the artist intended.

Traditionally, oil paintings should have an outer layer of varnish which functions as a protective surface, bearing the brunt of dirt, dust, smoke and whatever else your painting may be exposed to over the years. And, even if it is stored away from these harmful elements, it is not safe from natural aging. Varnishes, even away from light, will turn a yellowy brown and lose their luster. This can often result in a matte finish and a color cast that was never intended.

Paintings can be cleaned. Varnishes are meant to be removed and reapplied. There are solvents that skilled conservators can use to remove the old, discolored varnish without harming your painting underneath. Then, with your painting looking as the artist intended, a new varnish can be applied giving the image new life.

Sometimes a painting needs more extensive restoration than cleaning. Often, if the canvas was not properly handled by the artist, many different problems can occur. For example, if the canvas was not properly primed and the paint is flaking off or separating, or if the artist painted thin paint over thicker (and therefor slower drying) layers, causing cracks throughout the surface. These are not issues just limited to amateurs either, as John Singer Sargent is often sighted as being guilty of both. These issues, along with failing stretcher-bars, tears in the linen, exposure to water, fire and smoke damage along with many others are all reasons to consult a conservator and inquire about restoring your artwork.

We work closely with a local conservator, and encourage you to bring your paintings for cleaning and restoration. Or, even just to get an opinion and quote if you are not sure. Remember, restoration is an intended, natural step in the life of your painting and the results can mean the difference between a beautiful work of art that grabs your attention, or a dull old image that fades into the background.


Written by pagewaterman on . Posted in Blog

The Importance of Conservation:

con·ser·va·tion [kònssər váysh'n]

1.  protection of valued resources: the preservation, management, and care of natural and cultural resources 

2.  protection from change: the keeping or protecting of something from change, loss, or damage 

Encarta ® World English Dictionary © & (P) 1998-2005 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

Conservation in framing often referred to as preservation or archival framing is the protection of your artwork (or photograph, document, child’s finger-painting, etc) from outside forces that are harmful or will accelerate deterioration. The museum standard of conservation is an investment that can ease your mind, increase the enjoyment you get from your artwork, and, done properly, save you time and money on restoration and/or re-framing in the future.

Value is often a form of subjective measurement. Does monetary value outweigh sentimental value? Or visa versa? It is our opinion that all artwork has value, and deserves to be handled accordingly. I often hear the comment “I’m not framing a Picasso”, which is ironic because when most Picasso’s were originally framed they had little or no value. Now framers like us are tasked with taking this artwork out of their acidic mats which are burning and turning them brown and we are finding the art is faded from exposure to UV light and often has non-reversible “foxing” spots from moisture and oxidization; this doesn’t include the artwork that was permanently glued down or is not matted and is now stuck to the glass that covers it. I’m sure when the artwork was originally framed, the owner decided not to preserve it properly by comparing it to a Rembrandt or a Vermeer (“I’m not framing a Rembrandt”)!

Some basic conservation services include acid-free mat-board, which should be 100% cotton rag or chemically purified wood pulp and must test negative for lignin. The matting should be pH neutral (pH 7) or slightly alkaline (pH 8.5). This also applies to the backing board your artwork is hinged to. Hinging your artwork should always be done in the least intrusive, most reversible ways, like using acid free, long fibered Japanese paper applied with wheat or rice starch paste. Glass or acrylic glazing should always be UV filtered to prevent and reduce fading, and should never come into contact with your artwork. An allowance of space should always surround the materials used in framing to allow for the natural expansion and contraction of the materials used. These are just some of the basic techniques and now that you know them, make sure you are using a framer that adheres to these guidelines.

Here at The Page Waterman Gallery, we have a combined accumulation of over 175 years of framing experience and three PPFA (Professional Picture Framers Association) certified framers on staff that understand and can help with all your conservation needs.