• Damaged or deteriorated artwork may require conservation treatment to stabilize its condition or facilitate repair; the objective being to slow or prevent further material deterioration.  To meet this aim, Alvarez Fine Art Services is a full-service facility specializing in the conservation of artworks on paper.

    Every artwork arrives with its own history and circumstance requiring individual treatment. Artwork brought to Alvarez for treatment is initially examined to determine condition, the techniques and materials used by the artist, and what type of treatment is feasible. A treatment proposal and cost estimate are then prepared and presented to the client for review.  Once a specific course of treatment has been approved, the work commences.

    The following is a synopsis of the procedures that may be performed to correct structural or cosmetic deterioration for works of art on paper.

  • Often the first stage to any treatment, after analysis and testing, is a general surface cleaning to remove accumulated layers of dirt and atmospheric contaminants.  When applicable, this step is performed before beginning a wet treatment in order to prevent dirt from settling between the cellulose fibers of the paper when wetted.

    Great care is given to prevent any displacement of media during this process and thus a variety of techniques are employed to remove surface dirt.  These are specifically tailored to the treatment of each individual work of art.

  • The removal of a vintage support is sometimes necessary to protect or save a work of art from decomposition or structural failure. In many cases, older works of art are mounted (or glued) to hardwood panels or vintage boards composed of acidic paper pulp. Through a natural process of aging, the acidic content of these supports can migrate to the art and cause deterioration.  If necessary, the support and mounting adhesives can be removed manually allowing the work to then be properly cleaned to minimize the oxidation and discoloration caused by aging.

  • Wet (or aqueous) cleaning treatments are used to arrest oxidation, minimize staining, and remove contaminants from paper.  Sometimes works on paper are bathed and other times they are humidified or rinsed with a fine mist.  A treatment can be performed locally in specific areas or generally to the entire sheet.  The method of choice depends greatly on the medium and its response to initial testing.  The conservator is at all times aware of the type, composition, and age of the paper undergoing treatment.

  • When the structure of a piece of paper has been damaged and the fibers separated, they need to be properly mended by rejoining the edges of the fracture back together as close to their original orientation as possible.  This is typically done with methylcellulose paste and mulberry tissue.  Sometimes when there is a loss of paper in a specific area, such as a missing edge or hole, it may be prudent to fill the loss and install a paper insert.  An insert is carefully chosen from our archive of vintage paper or sourced from a manufacturer to closely match the existing support as best as possible.

  • “Wave”, “ripple”, “cockle”, and “belly” are all terms used to describe planar distortions in paper. These disturbances can occur when a sheet of paper is exposed to humidity or ill fitting.  Direct contact with water or simply a humid afternoon can cause paper to warp.  Even improper hinging during framing or a frame that does not allow the paper to expand can induce distortions.  Whatever the cause, this condition can be corrected by re-humidifying the sheet and drying it under pressure.

  • Often artwork that has been weakened by extensive oxidation or structurally stressed through creasing, tears, or loss will require an additional layer of support to ensure stability and continued flatness. The primary materials used are usually mulberry tissue and acid-free museum rag board. The materials we use are acid-free and buffered with calcium carbonate to counter acidification, and the entire process is reversible.

    In some cases, when the flexibility of a sheet of paper is endemic to its structural problems (for instance, when heavy gouache paint begins to cup and flake from the paper support), it may be prudent to prevent the surface of the artwork from flexing by mounting it to a fiberglass honeycomb panel, or lining it with prepared airplane linen with mylar interleaf and stretching the package in the manner of an oil painting.

  • As a last resort, and to moderate the visual disturbance of lost pigment, inpainting is sometimes necessary to cosmetically complete an image. This is a reserved and limited process in compliance with a ‘less is more’ philosophy in which original pigment is never removed or masked.  Quite often the consolidation of existing pigment that has dried out (or dessicated) takes precedence during this procedure and the actual placement of new media is minimal.