Christmas hailstorm 2011 006

Flood damage to frames and artwork.

Water damage and even excess humidity can irretrievably damage and even destroy artwork. This can also be made wose by poor framing.

Typical examples of damage are –

  • Waterstains that appear as tidelines and staining carried by moisture from elements within the frame (for example from timber frames and non-archival elements, such as poor quality matting and backing materials, actually within the frame package) and/or from water-borne dirt coming from outside the frame
  • cockling of the artwork
  • mould growth
  • foxing – the oxidation of metallic particles in the artwork – the most common being the rust spots that appear on works on paper
  • the breakdown of the gesso layer particularly in works on canvas. The gesso was traditionally made with gelatine glue derived from rabbit skins – any moisture will cause the paint layer to separate from the backing
  • most papers are ‘sized’ – providing a coating suited to particular types of artwork – size is another word for glue and typically the coating on photographs was gelatine. When damp, the gelatine softens and then sticks to the glass. This applies in varying degrees to all types of artwork and more especially so to those items featuring a high gloss
  • frames – apart from surface damage, water can cause swelling and a breakdown of the joints. The most serious damage will be caused to traditional and high end frames. The ornaments and general gesso are based on gelatine as also the burnished areas of real gold (water gilded)

These are just a few of the problems to be faced with water damage to art and frames.


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