When I first started working for GOLDEN, training to become a Materials and Application Specialist, I was told that I should never give restoration advice. Coming from a painting conservation background I understood the concern and the reason behind it. GOLDEN as a company would put itself in a vulnerable position if we were to give advice on how to treat damaged paintings. As a conservator I know that an enormous amount of damage to old paintings comes from previous, uninformed restoration attempts. If we gave you recommendations on how to restore a painting and something went wrong, unpleasant arguments about liability might ensue. That’s why we err on the safe side and handle these types of requests in the following manner…
Where we (Golden Artist Colors) draw the line:
This is what you can expect when you call or write to us with a request for advice on how to fix a painting:
- “Did you create the artwork yourself?” will be our first question to you. Often we get requests for help from people who say it’s about “their painting”. However, whether a painting belongs to you or whether you’ve created the painting yourself is an important difference. Unless you’ve created the artwork yourself, we wouldn’t want to give treatment advice.
- “Is the artwork already sold?” is another question we might ask. If your inquiry is about your own artwork, but the piece is already sold, we would advise not to change anything anymore, and particularly not without the consent of the new owner.
Particularly, if the artwork is of emotional or financial value to you, we’d recommend getting the help of a professional conservator in your area. Conservators can be found through associations like the American Institute for Conservation, Canadian Association of Professional Conservators in North America and Australian Institute for the Conservation of Cultural Material and NEW ZEALAND CONSERVATORS OF CULTURAL MATERIALS. Links to professional associations in European countries can be found here.
Conservation vs Restoration
There is a fine line between conservation and restoration of artwork. Conservation implies the preservation of original material through treatments like cleaning, consolidation of paint layers and retouching/removing disturbing elements. However, only to an extent that the artwork can be ‘read’ or interpreted easily. Restoration goes a significant step further than that. The aim in restoration is to recreate the original appearance, based on the current understanding of the artwork. Terms like “revitalizing or refreshing” are commonly used in this context. Often intact areas are completely painted over- a practice that doesn’t respect the artist’s intent and shouldn’t be carried out without the original creator’s consent.
Conservation and restoration treatments also have an effect on the value of an artwork, and the shift in value can go both ways, depending on the quality of the conservation/restoration treatment. Modern and contemporary artwork greatly value the original state of the painting, with no changes made to the appearance.
GOLDEN has close ties with the conservation community and has developed a number of products, which professional conservators in the objects and paintings conservation disciplines use for retouching. Nonetheless, Golden Artist Colors is first and foremost an artist paint manufacturer and that’s where our expertise is. Conservation materials should be fully reversible, so they can be removed from artwork without damaging anything. However, our standard acrylic paint lines, gels, and mediums, do not fulfill this criteria in most scenarios. Therefore we would not recommend using these on artwork that you have not created yourself.
8 thoughts on “(No) Repair and Restoration Advice”
Thought-provoking. I created a painting (using Golden media) and silver-gilded some highlights. I didn’t then know silver leaf tarnishes & the final effect is not as intended. I don’t want to scrap the painting and start over as I’m very pleased with it otherwise. Maybe I could re-gild with aluminum leaf or similar – I don’t want to varnish or change the appearance of the matte painted surfaces. Any thoughts anyone?
thank you for your comment. Yes, it should be possible to apply new leaf over the silver leaf. Aluminum leaf would indeed be a good choice since it is more stable but the color is a little brighter. If you han’t worked with aluminum leaf before, I would suggest creating a sacrificial trial paintinf with similar materials as in your painting, so see if you like the aluminum leaf in the combination. You couls also try to tone the aluminum leaf down a little with a thin layer of water color. The watercolor might bead up on the leaf but with the help of Wetting Agent/Wetting Aid or another surfactant, it should be possible.
Thank you, that’s really great advice!! I used Wundasize to gild the original silver leaf as the painting is acrylic. I guess the same size can be used for over-gilding with the aluminum leaf over the silver? Do I need to stabilize the tarnished silver leaf or treat it in some way before over-gilding with aluminum leaf using the Wundasize please?
my assumption is that a size would also have good adhesion over tarnished silver leaf, since the oxidation layer is so thin. If in doubt you could try to carefully polish the leaf or simply degrease with a cotton swab, Q-Tip or piece of cloth, depending on how large the silver-leafed area is. Since the Wunda Size is a general purpose synthetic size, it should work with aluminum leaf as well. It’s always good to do a test piece first. Let us know how it goes.
Thank you so much for your valued advice Mirjam!! I’ll try a test piece as you advised and will let you know how I get on with it.
Thanks! I appreciate your expertise & advice.
Great question and and answer! Thanks much.