Acanthus & Reed

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Spring cleaning

When someone learns that I frame artwork for a living they often say "you must see some exceptional art in your business". True enough but unfortunately I also see exceptional art that has been very badly framed. I'm not talking about the moulding that surrounds the picture; my real concern is the actual matting and backing materials inside the frame. For works on paper (such as drawings, prints, watercolors and photographs) the way we mount them into a picture frame is the most important element of conservation framing.

Bad mounting is not always visible to the untrained eye. Even collectors often miss some of the more egregious examples. If you have artwork that is special to you and was framed a while ago, consider taking it to your favorite framer for analysis. Old mats, cardboard backing or broken glass inside a picture frame will destroy the things you love. With new technologies designed to preserve and protect, you can refresh and renew your artwork using archival matting, backing and ultraviolet protective glazing for less than the cost of new frame.

If you're in my neighborhood I invite you to bring in your framed pictures for a free four point visual inspection and consultation. The days are getting longer and spring is in the air. Add picture frame maintenance to your spring cleaning list and see your artwork in a whole new light!


Here is a classic example of how damaging the wrong mat and backing can be. This 1908 watercolor by Abraham Walkowitz was framed in the mid 1950's with a silk mat and a simple silver leaf frame.

Walkowitz watercolor

The silk hides the acidic board it was wrapped around but close inspection reveals staining under the mat and along the edges of the watercolor.

Cardboard backing

The corrugated backing burned through and the fluted lines are visible on the back of the mat as well as the board on which the watercolor was mounted

Bad matboard

The adhesive from the back of the silk mat and the acid from the mat board combined to leave a nasty stain along the edge of the artwork.

Abraham Walkowitz watercolor

The watercolor was removed from the backing board and sent to a paper conservator for cleaning and deacidification. It was reframed with a new silk mat on acid free rag board, archival backing and Optium Museum Acrylic.


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