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To Restore or Not to Restore? That Is The Question

The Question

Many of our painting restorations involve the cleaning of a dirty canvas, patching of a hole, or fixing cracked or chipped paint.  Usually our clients want a piece restored for sentimental or aesthetic reasons. Sometimes paintings have a significant monetary value as well, which poses a question:

Will restoring a painting reduce its value?

The Story

A new customer recently brought us a challenging project. She had purchased a large unframed 40×80 painting a number of years ago at an auction by a famous Indian artist and wanted us to frame it for her. She was fortunate that the value of the painting had risen exponentially since she had purchased it years before.

Back of Painting with pinholes

Back of Painting with pinholes

Unfortunately the painting was in rough shape. The old stretcher bars were badly warped and the front of the painting itself had some cracking of the paint and tiny holes in the canvas. The holes were only visible from behind when it was held up to the light. It was a sign that the canvas had deteriorated to a point where it was extremely fragile and was likely to get worse if it were not stabilized.

In order to frame it properly, we knew we needed to remove the canvas from the warped, out of square stretchers and re-stretch it properly. Because the canvas was in such a fragile state, it was likely that the pulling and tightening of the re-stretching process would further damage the rigid cracked canvas.

painting with cracks

The Solution

We recommended that some work be done to the painting before we framed it: both for aesthetic and preservation reasons. The painting needed to be re-lined (a new piece of canvas affixed behind the old canvas to stabilize it) and the cracks needed to be fixed.

The customer was unsure if restoring the painting might reduce its future value. Although this is sometimes a valid concern, the answer in this case was that it would actually INCREASE the value because this piece was only going to get worse if nothing was done to it.

A painting that is in good condition and which has never been restored, is always preferable to one that has been worked on. The reality is that over a period of decades or even centuries, paintings are often stored in a manner that causes them to become damaged. And a conservative approach to restoring them is almost always your best bet.

Here is the finished piece with the new frame. The cracking has been eliminated and the canvas has been completely reinforced.  It will look great hanging on the wall for decades or longer!

Hussein Painting Framed