Caring for your artwork

Luke Sparkes
20 Jul 2019

You’ve made the leap and purchased artwork, excited for your walls to be embellished with the likes of Van Gogh and his brilliant colour palette and impressionist brushstrokes or Wolfgang Weber’s fluid depiction of the largest predator among the big cats. Whatever your choice in art, it can be completely lost and overlooked and possibly even damaged if not looked after properly.

So here are our top tips for caring for your artwork at home:


Avoid Heat

It isn’t just open fires that you need to watch out for; ideally, pictures should not be hung above radiators either.  Extreme or rapid changes in temperature cause paper and wood to dry out and adhesives to fail, meaning that your frame could break. If you have a paper-based limited edition or original, the paper could ripple, if your painting is an original oil, the constant temperature changes could mean that the composition of the picture itself could change. If your artwork (whether a limited edition or an original) is on a canvas, the canvas itself “breathes” and can go limp in the heat.

If you have a wood burner, check to see how hot the fireplace wall gets; if it’s hot to touch, it’s not ideal for a painting to be put on there.

This is also applicable to hanging artwork in the kitchen – if it is too close to a gas hob, Aga or an oven, not only is it a bit of a fire hazard, but it can also have the same effect at hanging close to a radiator/fireplace.

If you have no choice but to hang above a radiator, try using a radiator cover so the heat is directed out into the room, not up the wall.


Beware of Damp

It’s best to just not hang paintings in the bathroom. The condensation and damp can cause pictures to ripple. If the ripples touch the glass, the picture might stick and be hard to remove.

Damp also encourages fungal growth which is likely to show up as brown stains. Conservation framing can slow these effects, but it is always best to avoid hanging framed pictures in humid conditions.

Allow six months before hanging pictures on newly plastered walls.

If you’re really set on having a painting in the bathroom, look to see how much condensation is caused when having hot showers on cold days. If the walls feel a little slimy or the mirror is steamed up, it’s not appropriate for paper-based paintings with glass or canvas-based art. However, you can look into resin-based pieces which can’t “breathe”.



Eye-level display

When hanging artwork, where possible hang at an average eye level (if you’re 6”5 and your partner is 5”1 find a happy medium). Most pictures are designed to be viewed at eye-level, having them too high means you’ll only see the bottom and vice versa for hanging too low.

When hanging a group of pictures of different sizes align the top edges. Groups of pictures need not be hung in symmetrical patterns, but they should follow some sort of overall design. Try arranging them on the floor first or cutting each sized one out of cardboard and blue tacking to your all first.

Hang Securely

Use two hooks on the wall, each set about a quarter of the way in from either side of the picture. Check that the cord, wire or other hangers you use is designed to support the weight of your artwork. Always where possible use two hooks as it gives the artwork a greater weight distribution meaning that it’s a. less likely to fall off and b. less likely to be crooked.

Where possible, we would always advise you not to use the self-adhesive wall hooks. Although they’re great for hanging photographs up, if the painting is too heavy or not hung centrally, they can pull from the wall or even worse, they can pull the wall off!

Where safety is critical, like in children’s bedrooms, for example, ask your framer about security fittings and glazing – you can get shatterproof Perspex “glass” instead of normal glass fitted, just in case it does get knocked off the wall.


A Gentle Clean

Dust frames with a feather duster or treat with a soft brush, rather than risk applying water or cleaning fluids. Don’t use cleaning fluids or water on the varnished surface of oil paintings – again, dust carefully. If cleaning fluids have to be used on the glass, apply them to a duster first (rather than spraying the glass directly); take care not to let the fluids touch the frame as the chemicals can react to the varnish on the wood.


Regular Checks

  • If you find any evidence of discolouration, unsightly brown dots, small insects under the glass or that the brown paper tape sealing the back of the frame has come unstuck, return the frame to the framer.
  • Check for corroding picture wire or weak or loosening cord.
  • The varnish on oil paintings will gradually discolour, especially if the picture hangs in smoky or polluted conditions. It should be replaced as it dirties.
  • Oil paintings stretched over wooden bars may sag over time and the bars can make a slight imprint on the front of the canvas. Take the picture back to your framer for tightening or re-stretching.
  • The Fine Art Trade Guild recommends an inspection every five years.


Paintings wrapped in care on a wall

Out of the light

Try not to hang pictures directly opposite large windows as sunlight fades colours and discolours paper. Special UV-coated glass can help to slow this down but cannot guarantee any colour change. If you can only hang artwork opposite a window, consider getting net curtains or blinds and try to have them closed during the peak sunlight (ie. lunchtime).


Handle with Care

  • When carrying and transporting a picture, grasp the frame firmly on both sides
  • If you have to store pictures, make sure they are stacked vertically and the right way up
  • When stacking pictures, stand them ‘glass to glass’ so that the hangers do not damage the frames
  • If transporting long distances, replace glass with Perspex
  • If moving artwork around your house, try to put them down on carpeted or soft furnishings instead of hard floor as this can damage the frames. If you only have hard floors, you can pick up carpet samples from a carpet shop and use those.

Whether you’re looking to purchase new Limited Edition Fine Art or just wondering how to look after your current, we hope our tips on caring for your artwork at home gives you the essentials to keeping all your artwork safe.

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