At first glance, this painting seemed like it should have had a lot of color but there was this overall smoggy, dark look. In fact, you can see by the cleaning test on the upper left side that the original colors are extremely different/brighter. This oil on canvas painting’s surface is very grimy; imagine the walls of your home if you didn’t paint them for 80 years! Add to that a moderately yellowed varnish leaving the original colors dim and darker than the artist had originally intended and the painting looking nothing like it is supposed to.
Besides needing a cleaning, towards the lower left side of the painting, there is a tear which also means there is flaking paint. Fortunately, though, this tear is not in a main focal point of the painting. As it is, the small tear won’t impact the value of this $15,000.00 painting. But if it had been in a focal area or disturbed a main subject matter, it would have. Conservation professionals are not appraisers and it’s actually not ethical according to our national code of ethics to give values to clients in order get the work approved.
The treatments will include repairing the tear, consolidating or stabilizing the flaking, cleaning the grime layer and the varnish layers, fill with gesso any spots of missing paint where it flaked and then to inpaint the loss so you can’t see where the damage used to be. After restoration the painting will have brighter colors, enhanced depth of field, the tear will disappear and the varnish will look even and clear.
In this case, the total cost was $1,380.00. But that number could vary, a lot, buy the difficulty of the removal of the grime and varnish, the sensitivity to solvents of the original paint, the size of the rip, the amount of lost paint, whether there are cracks in the paint layers that need to be laid down and more. So, as you can see, each project is a custom job. There is no per square inch pricing that someone can give you over the phone.
If someone is willing to give you a per square inch price, then they are smoothing over unseen problems instead of correcting them. They also may be just doing whatever it takes to make the painting “look” better but ignoring important issues that impact long term preservation. You also may have to settle for inferior workmanship.
Let me give you a hypothetical example: Let’s say the painting in the photo above were estimated for you at $500.00 to do everything. Is that a good deal? Here’s what you would get for your money:
1. The restorer would wipe down the surface of the painting with a rag to remove the grime only (not including the varnish). Because the painting now looks brighter, you will see a big difference and think its clean when actually there’s another disfiguring layer of varnish still left behind.
2. The rip can be patched instead of the fibers “rewoven” and “welded” together.
3. Then a smear of putty over the lost paint and a repainting of the ripped area with a broad brush possibly adding a bush or two to help camouflage the retouching. This will confuse the eye and obliterate the rip.
4. A new varnish makes it all look fresh and new.
1. The painting is not as clean and colorful as it could be.
2. The patch will cause a bulge in the future, look unsightly and cause flaking
3. The overabundance of retouching that does not respect the artist’s original work impacts the value. If it is done in oil and dries harder than the original painting, it will not be able to be removed in the future without damaging the artwork.
This quick example is worth gold to you when you evaluate previous restorations (when buying) and when having your artwork restored. Here’s a link to a valuable analytical tool you can carry with you to help you see previous restorations: www.tipsforartcollectors.org/blacklight-package.
As the curator of your collections, caveat emptor.
Questions about conservation/restoration? Call us toll free at 888-704-7757
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Also see: www.tipsforartcollectors.org
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