Paper Conservation, Paper Conservators, Conservation Of Paper, Paper Restoration, Watercolor Conservation
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Paper Conservation Treatments

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Foxing and Discolouration

Most owners of old watercolours, drawings, prints and maps are familiar with the the disfiguring spots called foxing and the overall brown discolouration of aging. Exposure to damp encourages the growth of mould which over time becomes the brown spots known as foxing. Metallic impurities introduced into paper during the making process can also cause foxing. Over-exposure to daylight can have an adverse effect on the condition of the paper: it will become discoloured and take on a brownish appearance. This will lead to embrittlement which if not reversed will eventually turn the paper to dust. These distressing symptoms can often prevent the owner from enjoying the work of art and from displaying it. A free consultation with our paper conservator can help identify these problems. Paper conservation treatments can then help reduce these stains safely, and restore the picture to a condition worthy of display. A further benefit is that it will then return it to its true market value.

Foxing and discolouration removal from a 19th Century etching bought recently in a Parisian flea market.

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Poor Framing Practice

The main damage suffered by pictures is caused by the use of cheap and inappropriate materials in the construction of the frames. Inferior quality wood pulp mounts “leak” onto the work of art and cause mat burn, a very disfiguring brown stain around the edge of the image. Backing boards made from old pine and contemporary hardboard have a damaging effect on the work of art as it is effectively trapped in an unfavourable environment. Wood burn, as it is known, causes the paper to become acidic and the resulting brown discolouration works its way to the front of the paper and makes it difficult to read the image. If a framer has used poor standard adhesive tapes, they will discolour to a dark brown and leave a sticky residue on the paper. Our skilled paper conservator can reduce or remove these stains and residues, restoring the aesthetic quality of the image. Paper conservation treatments stabilise the paper thus prolonging its life and thereby increasing the market value of the work of art.

Inferior quality wood pulp mounts "leak" onto the work of art and cause mat burn.

Hardboard and pine backing boards cause wood burn which results in severe discolouration of the paper.


Masking tape and hardboard caused the discolouration to these engravings from Vitruvious Britanicus 1764

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Accidental and Environmental Damage

As paper is such a fragile material it can easily suffer accidental damage such as tears and creases which disfigure and reduce the value of a work of art on paper. Using Japanese papers and wheat starch paste, a skilled paper conservator can repair tears and infill missing areas. Environmental factors such as flood, fire and pollution cause obvious types of damage. The resulting water staining, blackening and surface dirt can drastically alter the appearance of pictures. By choosing the appropriate treatments such as washing, mechanical cleaning and chemical treatments, a trained paper conservator can reverse these damages and restore the work of art to its former visual state.

Water stain removal on 19th Century Victorian watercolour in gilded mount.


Removal of surface dirt and repair of missing area on 19th Century watercolour.

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