The structural remedy of deteriorated oil work on canvas is a serious concern of work conservators. Prior to now, the attachment of a second canvas to bolster the weakened authentic was common follow. This was known as re-lining and later grew to become referred to as lining. However in recent times the worth of lining has been questioned and its disadvantages documented. A significant change of opinion has occurred, bolstered by fashionable attitudes to conservation which place larger emphasis on preserving the unique state of the canvas help and utilized paint movie. These attitudes partially derive from a extra tutorial schooling that conservators now obtain. This has largely changed apprenticeship coaching, which tended to bolster the strengths of present follow. Now, a much less interventionist method is taken. However this method could be very dependant on the accuracy and relevance of engineering fashions derived from current scientific analysis. The appliance of this data to conservation follow creates an ongoing dialogue in regards to the goals, aesthetics and ethics of conservation.

The 1974 Comparative Lining Convention

In 2004 the UKIC held a gathering as regards to ‘Alternatives to Linings’.1 The assembly coincided with the belated publication of the customarily referred to papers from the Greenwich Comparative Lining Convention of 1974.2 These two occasions have been a chance to take inventory of modifications over the past thirty years to conservation follow for the structural conservation of canvas work. This paper presents an summary of the topic and is illustrated by some examples of options to structural issues which have been used repeatedly.

The Greenwich Convention was a really important occasion because it was the primary alternative to debate this topic. It introduced collectively a bunch of specialists from world wide with very totally different views of what was required from a lining.3 There was little assembly of minds on options, every described their very own follow, however the full vary of issues was not less than recognized.4 On reflection its fundamental worth was to establish the inadequacy of our understanding.

After the convention, since there had been no settlement on what constituted a superb lining, W. Percival Prescott, co-ordinator of the convention, known as for a moratorium on lining to offer conservators time to take inventory of the state of affairs.5 This was not what I needed to listen to and it took me a while to see its worth. We had recognized a massively essential subject in conservation that wanted fixing. My preliminary response was a want to seek out out extra and to experiment with all of the choices offered.6 However in museums, so the argument goes, we’re in a position to defer lining as a result of we all know that work will likely be stored in acceptable circumstances and stay accessible for re-examination, which permits us to rethink our remedy if it continues to trigger issues. This isn’t totally true however in a museum the argument for finishing up a lining has a better threshold.

Lining was seen as an answer however the standards for lining had by no means been correctly addressed. At Greenwich there was a lot confusion between the necessity to present a sound help and the necessity to re-attach the paint movie to the unique canvas. What’s a sound help? One which copes with dealing with and transport, tensions from humidity and temperature modifications, is chemically secure and visually acceptable. A marouflage is a sound help, however that’s an excessive answer. What about extra refined options? It was clear that we would have liked to know way more in regards to the portray and the circumstances to which we intend to reveal it.

No-one had addressed probably the most elementary questions. What is going on throughout the construction of a canvas portray? What forces exist throughout the layers of a portray on canvas? What’s their magnitude? The place do they act? What are their penalties? We knew that when a wooden panel is constrained it causes big forces that may crack it from finish to finish. We knew that when rabbit-skin glue dries it will possibly pull off a layer of glass from inside a beaker. We knew that pre-stretching could cause a canvas to separate. We knew that in dry circumstances work change into very brittle and might trigger paint to flake. We knew that in humid circumstances canvases can contract, generally dramatically dropping areas of paint on the edges – the infamous shrinkers. We knew that with warmth and strain we are able to distort seemingly stable paint, mould it to our benefit or fail to regulate the appliance to everybody’s drawback.

Whether or not to line

Thomas Gainsborough An Old Horse c.1755 detail


Thomas Gainsborough
An Previous Horse c.1755 element
(raking gentle {photograph})
oil on canvas, Tate.
That is an instance of a portray that has suffered harm throughout a glue lining.
The canvas texture is bolstered into the floor of the paint and the comb strokes have misplaced their crispness
© Tate

By inspecting many examples of glue lined work and their conservation data, it was clear that the outcomes of glue lining, significantly in the UK, had been disastrous (fig.1).7 Impasto was squashed, the canvas texture re-inforced within the paint and the valuable proof of artists’ brush-strokes have been eternally misplaced (fig.2). In contrast, the setbacks from fashionable lining follow are comparatively tame. However, in fact, we’re all personally accountable for the consequences of the linings that we undertake.

W. R. Sickert Tipperary 1914 detail


W. R. Sickert
Tipperary 1914
Oil on canvas (element), Tate
On an unlined portray we might admire the spontaneity of an artist’s brushstrokes, the character of the paint and the qualities of stretched canvas
© Property of Walter R. Sickert

Accountability is the important thing subject. Prior to now, the liner course of was carried out by liners (or re-liners), who have been typically employed by restorers, who in flip have been accountable to the museum curator or the portray proprietor. Was the continued insensitivity to lining harm attributable to this arm’s size accountability? Or was it merely that harm was considered acceptable as an inevitable side-effect of the necessity to save the canvas from falling aside? As I noticed extra previous glue linings it grew to become clear that nineteenth-century liners corresponding to Morrill continued to trigger the identical sort of harm again and again and that this harm was accepted by museums, which have been ready to ship extra work to be lined.8

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Apparently, our current research of some nineteenth-century artists’ strategies have additionally proven that artists corresponding to William Holman Hunt, Ford Madox Brown, Sir John Everett Millais and James McNeill Whistler have been getting their canvases lined very early and even throughout the portray course of. They’d no issues about flattening and weave re-enforcement and we suspect that in some instances they have been comfortable for his or her canvases to tackle the traits of the lined previous masters that that they had seen in museums.

Prior to now our attitudes to bodily and structural threats to a portray have owed extra to the excesses and limitations of our personal imaginations. We might think about that our remedy will final indefinitely and address a variety of unpredictable issues. On this case we’re more likely to go too far in our intervention. Alternatively, we might think about that we should not contaminate our portray with pointless materials and in that manner fail to forestall deterioration. The secret’s to have an correct mannequin of the long run use of the portray and the implications of an intervention.

Understanding the downside

Since Greenwich we have now made a lot progress in understanding how a canvas portray is constructed and the way it responds to its atmosphere and to our actions. Paul Ackroyd has produced a wonderful evaluate of the modifications in lining follow.9 Particularly, cautious measurements of the moisture response of portray supplies have been carried out by Mecklenburg, Hedley and Michalski.10

Conservators started to grasp that not solely the canvas and sizing but additionally the oil paint might reply to moisture very considerably, if slowly, and that the moisture content material influenced the mechanical properties of the paint, making it extra prone to the consequences of warmth and strain. Moisture remedies have been explored. We might soften some paints however not often the lead whites. Glue paste linings and different linings involving warmth and moisture exploit this moisture response whereas linings utilizing wax and artificial supplies had been invented extra just lately to keep away from it. However glue linings are more practical at really flattening raised cracks, not merely holding them tightly in airplane. Oil paint moisture response additionally explains why a lot harm has been carried out by glue liners up to now. With sufficient warmth and strain we might mould the paint into all types of attention-grabbing shapes.

Mecklenburg revolutionised our view of the canvas as help by exhibiting that the glue layer in a brand new portray carried a lot of the load (fig.3).11 The bottom and paint layers additionally carried important elements of the load, and the relationships between the layers modified with the altering humidity atmosphere. Because the portray aged and cracked the forces grew to become disrupted within the portray airplane and created the acquainted raised cracks and cupped paint. We might now start to understand why glue paste lining was efficient at holding down raised cracks, whereas different strategies weren’t. The persistence of the nineteenth-century glue liners not less than appeared rational. May we be taught from their success in flattening cupping and nonetheless keep away from the undesirable penalties inherent of their method?

The diagram illustrates how all paintings on stretched canvas deteriorate


The diagram illustrates how all work on stretched canvas deteriorate, first by means of embrittlement and cracking, then by means of long run rest below rigidity. A lot of the strain is carried within the paint and floor, not within the canvas, however the place the paint cracks, all the strain is taken by the canvas. Re-alignment of forces causes the islands of paint to cup and separate from the canvas
© Tate

Because of Hedley, shrinkers are not a thriller. Conservators perceive the behaviour and impact of a glue layer sitting as a separate layer on prime of the canvas as a result of it was utilized chilly by spatula in a thick gelatinous answer by a colourman corresponding to Roberson. Above 75–80% RH a linen canvas tends to shrink and animal glue loses its power. Tightly woven Ulster linens weren’t as stable and reliable as we had beforehand thought. We seemed with new respect on the flimsy open weave Belgian canvases utilized by many French painters of the 20 th century.

Extra just lately work by Younger and colleagues has continued to develop our understanding, filling in additional element about inside and exterior forces, producing pc fashions of how a portray and canvas behaves, and starting to measure the consequences of particular conservation remedies.12 Ought to we be lining onto stiffer materials that match the glue for load carrying? We’re nonetheless utilizing the identical specification of polyester sailcloth that Hedley discovered on the Earl’s Court docket Boat Present in 1981.13

The realisation {that a} lining canvas is just one of a number of essential elements that maintain collectively a canvas portray has modified our body of reference. Separating the consolidation course of from the liner course of was a vital change in pondering.14 If every course of must be justified individually and a lining canvas just isn’t a singular structural part, the arguments in favour of finishing up a lining are uncommon. That has been our expertise. It has been attainable to research the consequences of moisture remedies, adhesives and preventive remedies in isolation from lining. Certainly, we have now been in a position to present that we might create practically all of the disadvantages of lining: weave emphasis, extreme flattening, the marouflage-look, squashed impasto and moating with out attaching a second canvas.


Given that previously we understood little or no in regards to the complexities of stretched canvas work and even now we don’t perceive all the pieces, the follow adopted by most conservators has been to intervene as little as attainable. However when a canvas is round 100 years previous and starting to point out the acquainted indicators of degradation, we have to intervene.

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Typically the tacking edges are extra broken than the majority of the canvas due to the impact of the rusted tacks and resinous wooden. We not often take away a canvas from its stretcher until it’s completely essential. Once we do, we threat damaging the tacking edges, which is probably not robust sufficient to permit re-stretching. It’s then that we resort to strip-lining, the appliance of a strip of canvas to bolster the unique edges (fig.4).15

A 150 year-old primed canvas which has never been painted displays all the basic deterioration characteristics of a finished painting on a stretched canvas


A 150 year-old primed canvas which has by no means been painted shows all the fundamental deterioration traits of a completed portray on a stretched canvas
© Tate

Strip-lining is usually carried out with polyester canvas and BEVA adhesive (ethylene vinyl acetate copolymer). This has proved to be efficient over a few years. The polyester is skinny, secure, and load-bearing and BEVA is versatile and gives good adhesion. It’s warmth sealed at 65 levels centigrade. There may be at all times the query of how far to increase the strip lining into the image airplane. It have to be far sufficient to hold the load throughout the weak edges. Deformation in airplane on the strip-lining edge is far much less of an issue with skinny polyester and versatile ethylene vinyl acetate.

Strip-lining has largely changed lining because it begins to handle most of the issues that will as soon as have put the portray within the class to be lined.


Tears are sometimes cited as the rationale for lining and certainly main tears equal to half a portray dimension or extra want further help. However most small or medium tears can ceaselessly be repaired in situ and needn’t contain lining. The canvas just isn’t usually faraway from its stretcher. The torn space is handled with moisture utilizing a brush or swab to shrink the prolonged yarns again into airplane in order that they meet once more. Relying on the tear that is often attainable to realize but when severe distortion has occurred it could be essential to trim some canvas yarns. The areas most resilient to remedy are distortions at every finish of the tear the place most stress focus has occurred. Inserting the canvas regionally below strain utilizing weights, heated spatula and moist blotting paper can often obtain an affordable consequence. Then the canvas will be repaired both by utilizing adhesive or by stitching. Some current papers have described this course of intimately and made helpful observations on greatest follow.16 The important factors are that the tear restore is restricted to the airplane and degree of the canvas and the quick space of the tear, and that it gives a inflexible structural joint, with the yarns aligned.17 Subsequent, the misplaced paint is crammed and retouched. Typically little or no paint has been misplaced and probably the most in depth a part of the retouching intervention is in disguising the extra in depth cracking that has occurred across the tear.

Flaking paint

Lining a canvas was as soon as considered a legitimate remedy to consolidate flaking paint. Most paint loss or flaking is attributable to poor adhesion between the bottom and canvas. Often, on account of unhealthy artist’s method, flaking can happen between paint movies. As with different points of poor method that is probably the most tough kind to cope with, however luckily comparatively uncommon.

Nevertheless, the standard downside is the necessity to re-attach an authentic lean white-lead oil floor to a sized canvas. As a result of the size and mass of every lifting and doubtlessly flaking piece of paint/floor is small, Newton’s legislation tells us that the forces wanted to re-attach them are very small. Certainly, I’ve seen small raised edges of paint which have escaped the conservator’s consideration stay very secure for years regardless of having been uncovered to fixed dealing with and show. The calls for on the adhesive are very small, and as we all know even wax/resin is sufficient to maintain an remoted space of paint. It isn’t shocking then {that a} multitude of adhesives has been instructed for consolidation and lining and never shocking that there is no such thing as a consensus on one of the best one.

Maybe one of the best adhesive is probably the most secure one. In conservation remedies we argue for reversibility however a really reversible adhesive or consolidant is by definition not attainable.

Our mannequin of a canvas portray tells us that the canvas rigidity might be carried principally within the dimension and floor, relying on the humidity, besides at discontinuities (cracks) the place the load is totally carried by the canvas. It is a mechanism that results in cupping and flaking of paint/floor and up to date work on the Canadian Conservation Institute means that drying of the paint layers might also contribute to cupping. To counteract cupping, an adhesive with an elastic modulus not less than as excessive as that of a lean floor could be wanted. Such a structural adhesive wouldn’t be detachable. We have to resolve whether or not we want merely to re-attach the canvas or be way more formidable and reverse a few of the results of cracking. The latter method nonetheless wants way more analysis and is I feel the excellent subject but to be addressed – so we have to be content material with re-attachment.

If we settle for this restricted goal I feel we must always not fear an excessive amount of in regards to the nature of the adhesive we select – in spite of everything it has to kind a bond to dried oil, pigment, canvas and rabbit-skin glue, very totally different supplies. This range of floor power is a part of the rationale the unique paint failed. The consolidating adhesive must have broad properties. That’s the reason numerous commentators have justified vastly totally different adhesives from fish glue by means of artificial emulsions to waxes.


A lot of a museum assortment of up to date artwork ought to be in good situation however we will be assured that it’ll deteriorate in an identical strategy to present works within the historic assortment. In lots of instances artists are nonetheless utilizing stretched canvas to color on and oil priming has solely very just lately been changed by acrylic. There are variations in diploma however the buildings stay related. Nevertheless we are able to predict that when sure tough works ultimately must be handled future conservators can have severe or insurmountable issues. We must always subsequently take motion now to forestall or retard deterioration.

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Most museums put a lot emphasis on preventive measures, decreasing dangers in dealing with, transport, show and storage. This has been the mainstay of the method at Tate. By introducing procedures for the bodily safety of artistic endeavors and proscribing direct entry to artistic endeavors we are able to keep away from a lot unintentional harm. By bettering gallery environmental circumstances and air high quality we are able to cut back bodily and chemical modifications.

Framing coverage has proved extraordinarily efficient up to now 30 years.18 The appliance of backboards, the strengthening of frames to make sure rigidity and the appliance of low reflecting glass each time attainable gives efficient mechanical safety and ensures a microclimate round every work, which is way extra secure than one of the best air-conditioning system. The in depth use of carrying/transit frames, wrapped in polythene, for dealing with, storage and lorry transport can be a mainstay. Such procedures are important, significantly when our assortment is used so closely.

We additionally prioritise the examination and remedy of newly acquired artistic endeavors, placing them right into a situation that pre-empts a few of the deterioration results that we predict. By surveying the gathering we have now recognized these works already within the assortment that want remedy. Prior to now many of those would have been prime candidates for lining however now we search for alternate options.

Double canvases (loose-lining)

Within the nineteenth century a number of London colourmen bought double canvases, for instance W. Brown of Holborn and later, Robersons and Winsor and Newton. Double canvases have been considered a superior product and have been purchased by main artists. Many later work by J.M.W. Turner have been painted on Brown’s double canvases and different established artists corresponding to W.P. Frith, Sir Edwin Landseer, J.E.Millais and W.Holman Hunt additionally used double canvases.

These double canvases usually encompass a tightly woven heavy Ulster linen canvas, sized with rabbit-skin glue and primed with a lean oil floor. The bottom is often pigmented a boring white utilizing a mix of lead white and chalk utilized by brush in not less than two layers. It’s utilized evenly and easily, as could be anticipated from a business product. Massive items of stretched canvas have been pre-primed on this manner for each single and double canvas programs.

When the bottom has dried, the primary canvas is stretched on a considerable expandable wood stretcher with the bottom going through the stretcher. Zinc coated iron tacks are usually used. This grew to become the auxiliary canvas. The second canvas is stretched on the identical stretcher, this time within the standard manner with the bottom to the entrance, once more utilizing tacks. This grew to become the first canvas for portray on. The intention was to create a sandwich construction of floor, sized canvas, sized canvas, and floor. There isn’t a adhesive between the 2 canvases, that are merely held collectively by the stretching course of.

A variation on this technique was using an un-primed canvas behind the primary canvas moderately than a primed one. This was cheaper and little question not thought of as good.

Examination of the primed double canvases within the late twentieth century once they have been about 150 years previous revealed that the auxiliary canvas grounds had cracked with an nearly an identical sample to the first painted canvas floor (fig.4). They’d cracked extensively to kind a whole community of largely random cracks, which had then opened and allowed the paint to cup. The moisture response of the tightly woven linen and the thickness of the bottom have been the chief contributions to this.

A conservator attaches a strip-lining to the edges of a canvas


A conservator attaches a strip-lining to the perimeters of a canvas
© Tate

When these helps have been dismantled, removing of the first canvas revealed the reverse which was freed from mud and gave the impression to be comparatively properly preserved. Equally, the auxiliary canvas was properly preserved. So this was an efficient system of preserving the canvas from the consequences of air pollution, each particulate and acid fuel, which was principally sulphur dioxide within the interval in query.

Nevertheless this double canvas system (generally known as an authentic loose-lining) didn’t stop cracking and cupping of the bottom and paint, nor did it stop nook attracts and lack of rigidity. Many of those work have been relined within the Sixties, often in an try and flatten disturbing cupping and undulations. Certainly, the auxiliary canvases have been very helpful objects on which to practise the flattening of cupping.

The precious expertise of 100 and fifty years of ageing revealed by these canvases inspired conservators at Tate to make use of fashionable loose-linings on extra just lately painted works, as a safety measure, and likewise for older work that we didn’t want to line. The barrier impact of the unique double canvases in opposition to filth and air pollution was clear however their failure to forestall the consequences of canvas rest was additionally evident. Fairly than use linen canvas for contemporary loose-linings we selected to make use of polyester sailcloth. This materials is a effective, even polyester yarn which has been tightly woven, adopted by warmth remedy to shrink the canvas and lock the weave in place. When used as a sail it’s designed to be impervious to wind and subsequently it will possibly considerably cut back the transport of air to the canvas reverse, protecting out all particulate and most gaseous air pollution. The fabric just isn’t anticipated to calm down or creep to the identical extent as canvas and acts to maintain the stretcher in airplane. I’ve a polyester canvas that I stretched twenty 5 years in the past which remains to be very tight. It ought to offer a wonderful help.

When a painted canvas is stretched on prime of a polyester loose-lining its weight is supported by the polyester and it needn’t be stretched so tightly. It can feel and appear tight despite the fact that solely a small pressure has been exerted. It is a essential impact, which prevents, or not less than reduces, the long-term rest that will in any other case happen with a tightly stretched linen canvas, despite the fact that this may increasingly not present itself for 50 years.

One downside with a polyester loose-lining is that the reverse of the canvas turns into invisible and the polyester might even be taken for the unique. If additional work must be carried out to a portray at a later date the loose-lining might must be eliminated. A bonus is that the unique stretcher will be retained and preserved by this method and the entire weight is barely elevated a really small quantity.

A inflexible help

When the stretcher is insufficient, as with many massive fashionable works, and must be changed, the museum conservator might devise a completely new help system that gives rigidity and safety from the rear. In a museum the additional weig

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