When first looking at a painting, it might seem like it’s in perfect condition. However, appearances are deceiving. The canvas may have been stripped of its’ varnish, completely repainted, or any number of other restoration techniques could have been applied – none of which are obvious to the casual observer. To protect yourself and your investment, look at a condition report. A condition report is a complete statement of any cleaning, retouching, or damage that has been done to the piece.
Restoration is a natural part of caring for older paintings. However, it can also decrease a work’s value or cause further damage. Our policy at Ackerman’s Fine Art is to not accept any work with more than 25% overpainting. Overpainting is when a restorer has painted over the original work to cover damage. While this may appear seamless at first glance, it can cause problems later. For instance, if the wrong quality of paint is used, such areas will noticeably discolor over time.
Keep an eye out for any scratches or other inconstancies. This can be evidence of worse damage underneath. Previous restoration work can also cause corrosion either by misapplied paint or varnishes. Overzealous cleaning, known as skinning, can even be the culprit. Ultraviolet light will reveal any and all alterations that have been made.
Other types of damage can be attributed to environmental causes. Brown mold can appear on certain kinds of paints or the paint can crack due to age. Good restoration work will manage the effects of this natural damage without taking away or adding to the work. Condition reports will also cover these aspects in order to catalogue a complete statement.
While some cleaning and light restoration is to be expected with older works, try to be sure that only minimal work has been done. All information should be made available before buying or selling art. Complete knowledge of the work’s past is a vital part of collecting art.