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On arrival:  water damage, lifted paint, break in support

Consolidated, lined, cleaned, filled, inpainted, resurfaced.

Julian Lamar, 20th C American, oil on canvas                             Private client


The damage to this painting is the result of an ice dam which occurred while its owners were away for the winter. The painting was repeatedly soaked with water which caused extensive harm-- lifting and blistering of the paint film as well as long streaks of discoloration on the surface..


The first step in reversing the damage was to infuse the lifted areas with liquid BEVA adhesive to prevent any further paint loss. When dry, the BEVA was heated and put down with a tacking iron to activate and strengthen the glue. Once the damaged areas were consolidated, the entire surface was covered with a mulberry tissue applied with methyl cellulose.


With the front of the painting protected, it was carefully placed face down on a padded surface and the water damaged areas were flattened from the reverse side with moisture, blotters and weights. The large tear was relaxed with moisture also, and after the threads were aligned, flattened also, along with all four tacking edges. Tissue bridges were applied over the breaks to stabilize them during the rest of the procedure.


Next, the back of the painting was covered with a coat of conservation wax and placed on a vacuum hot table face up. An airtight cover was placed over it and the air was extracted by a vacuum pump. The table was then heated to 165 degrees. This infused the canvas with wax which penetrated through to the surface and kept the damages flattened. When cooled, the painting was released from the vacuum and excess wax and BEVA were cleaned from the blistered area.


A linen lining canvas larger than the painting was stretched, soaked, and restretched to remove all possibility of further expansion. The painting was then placed face down on a sheet of glassine paper and the lining canvas was clamped down over it. Additional wax was applied through the lining canvas, and the painting was hand lined using an iron to melt the wax and a glass to extrude the excess through the lining canvas until the painting and lining were laminated together.


The lined painting was then cleaned of surface grime with a mild surfactant detergent rinsed with distilled water and then mineral spirits. Heavy water stains were chemically treated so they were no longer visible.


The lined and cleaned painting was then restretched on a Lebron expansion stretcher and placed face up so damages could be filled with gesso in preparation for inpainting. A separating coat of B-67 was brushed on and the fillings were inpainted with pure ground pigments in a medium of B-67 and xylene. Inpainting was executed with a small sable brush under 7 power magnification and working under a 500 watt bulb to ensure perfect matching of the colors with the original colors surrounding the fillings.


Additional coats of paraloid B-72 were sprayed on to complete the surface and the painting could once more be enjoyed and was now protected from any further water damage.

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