Art Conservation and Restoration

By+Bradley Vite

Condition of any item plays a major role in the enjoyment and the value of the object. And  one of the best ways to protect a work of art is with museum-quality framing commonly referred to in the trade as archival. There are literally hundreds of mouldings and mats to choose from today, and a seasoned framer will have an ability to not only protect the piece but do so with attention to detailed aesthetics. It is important that the framer have a grasp of art history with an appreciation of period mouldings, matting selections, and archival materials to present the artwork in the most complimentary fashion and protecting it from any sort of deteriation or damage.

Damage to works of art can be caused by a littany of reasons. Non-archival materials and adhesives used in the 1800’s and prior all the way to the late 20th Century are very common and frequently seen. Have you ever viewed a framed object with a wood backing with the print or document showing signs of yellowing/browning? This is the acid migrating from the wood.

Archival framing is an important element and aspect of conservation, and in this protected state allows for protection of the art’s value both monetarily and aesthetically.

There are a number of issues that contribute to a piece being damaged, including humidity, which when in excess of 65%, can allow mold to form. If one can control the humidity levels, the chances for mold are greatly reduced. Other signs that mold has taken hold is foxing, a brownish speckling on the paper. Mold can also penetrate pigment layers of a painting.

One of the biggest enemies of art is ultraviolet light, which causes fading, and yellowing. Art should never be placed in an area of direct sunlight. Ultraviolet museum glass is available for those wanting premier protection for their art pieces.

Some of the other areas of concern are insects, including wood worms and silverfish and air pollutants which can do damage to paper and painted surfaces. And heat for extended periods can adversely affect paint layers and works on paper.

Here are just a few terms and definitions for those interested in the conditions of  fine art. This is just a sampling of the many terms associated with conservation and restoration:

COCKLING - A waviness that occurs in paper due to exposure 
to moisture.

CRAQUELURE - A webbing of cracks in a paint surface.

CUPPING - deformation of a paint film where the edges of cracks lift upwards to create cup-like formations in response to changes in temperature or humidity.

HYDRATION - In restoration,  the process of introducing moisture to an embrittled dehydrated sheet.

INPAINTING - Replacing missing pigment within the area of loss.

RELINE - To adhere a piece of cloth, usually linen, to the back of an original painting as a strengthening agent.

SURFACE CLEAN - removal of surface dirt or grime from a sheet of paper or canvas surface.

VARNISH - Various transparent coatings, synthetic or organic, used as a final layer on the surface of a work of art.

Most artwork in our homes and our offices have some sort of meaning or relevance to our lives. Something picked up on a vacation, a gift from a friend, artwork from our children or grandchildren and/or a master print or painting to compliment a collection near and dear to our heart. In each and every case, the framing materials will make a distinct statement both in attractiveness and preservation of the artwork.
If the work of art was correctly and expertly handled in both selection of the matting and  framing, and other materials chosen, the piece will be a joy to look at and share with friends, family, and business associates for years to come. And unlike perishable commodities, fine art will not only provide aesthetic pleasure on a daily basis, but is something that can be gifted to family members, friends, museums and historical societies. And in many cases its value will have increased…so it makes sense to protect and preserve.

We are all temporary custodians of what we have and we should be aware of taking the time and care to have our artwork professionally and archivally framed, which will help protect the piece for generations to come. 




Bradley Vite, Director of Bradley Vite Fine Arts, specializes in works of art of 19th and 20th Century American; including John James Audubon, McKenney-Hall, Illustrators, Animation, Brown County. Mr. Vite enjoys working with individual needs of collectors, corporations and museums.
Mr. Vite graduated from Hillsdale College with honors of inclusion to Omicron Delta Kappa, for leadership and scholarship and Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges. He is active in a number of philanthropic and civic endeavors and has been recognized in the United Way All Star Hall of Fame. Mr. Vite’s concern for the environment and quality of life led to efforts in noise abatement that have been recognized internationally and nationally. Additionally, an award is given annually in Mr. Vite’s name in recognition of his many years of service to the Association for the Disabled of Elkhart County,
more specificially Adec Ride-A-Bike, which he chaired for many years, the organization’s largest annual fundraiser.
Although enticed and encouraged to open a gallery on the magnificent mile in downtown Chicago, Mr. Vite decided to bring a fine arts gallery to Northern Indiana and Southern Michigan. Clients have come as far as New York to California.

Mr. Vite is on the advisory board of the Midwest Museum of American Art and is a life member of the American Historical Print Collectors Society.

Bradley Vite Fine Arts
Beardsley Crossing
1600 West Beardsley Ave.
Elkhart, IN 46514