Saturday, February 22, 2014

Protecting Oil Paintings; Temperature and Humidity

Painted properly, an oil painting's driest layer or leanest layer is underneath the surface layers. These surface layers contain the fattest paint or the paint containing the most oil. A painting can thus dry from the inside-out without cracking. A painting can take a month or more to "dry." Though it may be 6 months or more before a painting has cured or sufficiently hardened. I began discussing caring for an oil painting in a previous post. Environmental factors can aid or inhibit the curing process. Temperature and humidity can negatively impact a painting. The ideal environment is dust-free, smoke free at a temperature of 70° F and a relative humidity of 45-55%. These archivally perfect conditions can be replicated for work that you intend to last centuries. If perfect museum conditions are not possible or practical, a modified plan can be put into place. For example, during the most humid time of the year, keep paintings in a climate controlled environment. Temperature fluctuates less in inner rooms, and on inner walls. Outer walls and rooms closer to the exterior have greater temperature and humidity changes. Prevent mold and moisture and heat exposure by not hanging artwork in bathrooms, kitchens or other moist areas. Limit other environmental insult by not keeping art near fireplaces, wood stoves or in rooms where cooking occurs. Artwork placed on walls near radiators and wall vents can also suffer. Ideally art should not be stored in attics, basements or garages. Even taking a few simple precautions can extend the life of your original artwork.

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