Repairing Antique Oil Paintings.

Or what is Philip’s Super Power?

Notice the impressions and waves on the old canvas.

Notice the impressions and waves on the old canvas.

Philip has been repairing oil paintings since the mid-1970s. He learned from his great-uncle, who restored paintings for over 20 years. It takes practice to become an experienced restorer and people all over the Ozarks have trusted Philip with their antique paintings.

The painting at the top of the article is good example of a painting in distress. There are cuts and puncture holes in the canvas and the canvas has become loose and waves are noticeable. Not everyone would bother to repair this oil painting, but in this case, the customer wanted it fixed and cleaned. Follow the process as Philip tackles this job.

The first thing you need is to decide if you want to leave it as is or would it be a benefit to clean it,  removing the dirt, the tobacco smoke and removing the old varnish down to the original paint. Almost all oil paintings that are over 150 years have been relined because oil paints tend to flake off and spiderweb crack. Stretcher bars imprints in very old paintings are expected and not a reason to restretch the painting.

Note the square angles on the stretcher strips, so this indicates that it was put together prior to 1895.

Note the square angles on the stretcher strips, so this indicates that it was put together prior to 1895.

The first step is to remove the oil painting from the frame and from the stretcher bars. If it has several rips or punctures to the canvas, Philip completely relines the canvas. To do this, Philip binds the old painting to a new piece of linen with a special wax, through a heat process.

Once Philip relines the old painting with restoring wax, some of the wax comes through the painting, so he uses a specialized cleaner to remove the wax. He uses different formulas of cleaning agents and chemicals which will work on the dirt and removes the old varnish. Only an expert should tackle this process.

A bonus to relining the old painting is there will be extra linen on the edge to re-stretch it tight.

A bonus to relining the old painting is there will be extra linen on the edge to re-stretch it tight.

All of the painting has been cleaned except the center brown spot to show the difference in the “sky”.

All of the painting has been cleaned except the center brown spot to show the difference in the “sky”.

Once it’s cleaned, Philip fills the tears and puncture holes with filler and once it dries, he sands it down. Using oil paints, Philip touches up the filler, carefully matching the original paint. Then he allows the paint to dry. And finally, he applies a fresh coat of varnish on the entire oil painting.

Note the tears, indicated by the white lines along the side of the painting.

Note the tears, indicated by the white lines along the side of the painting.

The same painting repaired with filler and paint.

The same painting repaired with filler and paint.z

The final step is to re-stretch the oil painting. Old paintings are always stretched and tacked down with small tacks, never staples. In most situations, the painting is return to the original frame or a new frame is selected.

So there you have it…Philip’s super power is repairing valuable works of art to their original beauty!

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