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.