Clean an Oil Painting Safely - Tips for Art Collectors


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Cleaning a 19th century oil painting - See the unexpected twist this art conservation cleaning took

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Clean an Oil Painting Safely - Tips for Art Collectors

  1. 1. Cleaning a Painting A discovery process and the “unknown factor” G.A. Cuomo c. 1880When I got this Victorian 1880’s oil painting from a friend/client(Thom Gianetto at Edenhurst Gallery) I thought the yellowed varnishwould be an easy/quick, safe (for the painting) removal. After 40 yearsof cleaning paintings, you would think that I could just “eye ball” it…but its better to be humble and ere on the side of caution.Some people think that cleaning a painting is a per square inch type ofestimating and that I should be able to do it over the phone. But toclean an old oil painting safely, we need to do solubility tests witheach of the solvents we might use to make sure they dissolve thevarnish without dissolving the original paint! Sometimes we use ahead-mounted magnifier to get a closer look and sometimes we use astereobinocular microscope! Varnish qualities vary widely and justwhen you think it looks “normal” you find that the varnish in questionwon’t come off with the usual stand bys.I thought this painting would take about $300 in time and materials toclean but instead, it resisted and took about $1,200.00 in time andmaterials to clean completely (no yellowed varnish left behind) andsafely (no adverse affects on the original paint). So, as you can see, thecleaning process (as are some of the other art conservation
  2. 2. treatments) requires, sometimes, a “discovery process.” Most of thetime, however, we nail the estimate up front but some of you may behappy to know that the “unknown factor” happens to me too when Iwork on my artwork.The “take away” for you from this article is a better knowledge of theestimating and discovery process when cleaning a painting. That mayhelp you to have a better conversation when you talk to an artconservator.Would you please give this blog post a THUMBS UP? Thanks!Art conservation questions? Call Scott M. Haskins 805 564 3438Art and antiques appraisal questions? Call Richard Holgate, FACLAppraisals 805 895 5121Call Thom Gianetto, Edenhurst Gallery 949 376 9222 or go to thegallery website at for EarlyCalifornia Impressionist and Modernist PaintingsScott M. Haskins was recognized recently as the Number 1 Art Expert tofollow on Twitter for Insurance Adjusters (Follow best_artdoc): our friend on Facebook: “Fine Art Conservation”, “Tips For ArtCollectors”, “Scott M. Haskins”, “Mural Art Conservation”