A Practical Guide To Caring For Your Oil Paintings

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The painting featured in this photo is titled “Girl in the Red Dress” by Teresa Bernard.

Whether it is a masterpiece by some well-known artist, one of your own creations, a beloved artwork by a friend or relative, your oil paintings will need special care if its beauty and value is to be preserved. Here are a few practical things you can do to make sure your oil painting will last for years.

Keep your painting away from direct sunlight. This means displaying the painting in a low-lit area of your home. If this isn’t feasible, at least make sure your windows are covered with draperies or shades that filter out damaging ultraviolet rays. Other elements you need to protect your paintings from are dust, large swings in room temperature, heat from a radiator, smoke and humidity.

It is a good idea to change a painting’s position now and then. There’s nothing that says a painting or any work of art, for that matter, should stay in the same spot on the wall forever. Switch things around to give yourself a new fresh look at your paintings from time to time.

Never hang your oil paintings over a fireplace or any place where they are exposed to soot or other dirt. For this reason, it is also best not to hang a valued painting in the kitchen where greasy smoke and dirt will collect on it.

The best way to hang a painting is using a wire that stretches from one side of the painting’s stretcher bars to the other side. Then it should be suspended from a hook that is sturdy enough to hold its weight. As a rule of thumb, most art galleries hang their paintings about 60 inches from the floor.

Avoid using halogen lights to highlight an oil painting because the heat from a halogen light can damage the paint by causing it to dry out and become cracked or even flake off. Fluorescent lights are cool and more of them are coming in warmer colors.

Keep your painting away from high humidity if it is on stretch canvas, panel canvas or wood. This is very important because these types of support materials swell when they are wet, then shrink when dry. This movement in the canvas may cause damage to the painting. For best results, keep all oil paintings in a room where the temperature and humidity levels remains consistent at all times. Also, oil paintings should be protected from mold, which is a risk in a house that is damp a good bit of the time or has poor insulation and/or ventilation.

When cleaning the frame, be sure to use a soft paintbrush or compressed air. This will avoid scratching or chipping the wood or finish. Aluminum or lacquered wood frames should only be cleaned with a dry, soft, lint free cloth. Do not spray cleaner on the frame while the painting is being housed in the frame. It is best to remove the painting from the frame before cleaning.

Oil paintings should never be touched with bare hands. If the painting has to be moved, it should be grasped by the sides of the frame using both hands. It should never be held by the top of the frame and especially not by the wire hanger that is on the back. To be especially safe, the mover should take off all jewelry or anything sharp to make sure the painting isn’t scratched. They should also be very careful not to bump the painting. The surface of an old oil painting can crack or scuff if it is bumped.

If the painting needs to be cleaned, it is best to have a professional do that for you. However, if this is not convenient, be sure to use exquisite care when attempting to clean your painting. It is best to use a soft, clean paint brush or duster on the surface of the painting. Do not use a cotton cloth, which can leave damaging lint. It is best to clean from top to bottom.

If your painting is damaged, it is best to call a professional in art restoration and conservation to repair it. Don’t try and do it yourself. You will most likely not be happy with the results.

The front and back of your oil paintings should be checked from time to time to make sure that there are no signs of mold, moth damage, or some other type of damage.

Additional Reading

Other articles that might be useful to read on in regard to this topic are:

Importance of Varnishing Oil Paintings, The

Proper Care of Your Sunset Oil Paintings

Have a question?

If you have a question about this painting, please contact us and we’ll be happy to answer any of your questions.

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UPDATED: 17 March 2021

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