History of Art


Comparison of Painting Lining Methods for Historic House Environments

Painting lining

Project Researchers: Vladimir Vilde

Project Collaborators: English Heritage and LaVision UK Ltd

Project Funders: EPSRC and English Heritage

Canvas lined paintings comprise a significant proportion of the works of art found in historic house collections. However, due to tight restrictions that surround modifications to built heritage it is not possible to carefully control the environment of these paintings on open display. As a consequence, wide relative humidity (RH) fluctuations generate physical stresses within such paintings, often exacerbated by the interactions between original composite materials and historic re-lining techniques. In their simplest form relining treatments for canvas paintings consist of the adhesion of new canvas to the reverse of the painting with a view to providing additional support to damaged or degraded canvas. However, such treatments can often by quite complex constructions and there is no clear consensus within the field regarding the best practice methodology for relining canvas paintings. Additionally, such remedial conservation treatments are time consuming, expensive and invasive, therefore many museums and galleries now opt for preventive measures of conservation i.e. limiting degradation through careful control of the display environment. In the case of the historic house, environmental control is limited and collections on display are often exposed to large fluctuations in temperature and humidity throughout the seasons, which can prove problematic for these composite objects. Taking this into consideration English Heritage are interested in investigating appropriate relining techniques designed at providing support and stability for canvas paintings in fluctuating environments. Moreover, due the increased risk of damage posed by invasive conservation and the high cost of retreatment, developing condition monitoring techniques that can determine the current state of condition would also be of benefit. Although various analytical techniques exist that could tackle this challenge it is of particular importance that condition monitoring techniques are non-invasive to maintain the overall integrity of the painting.

With this in mind, this project takes on two major strands of work, the first assessing the mechanical performance of various treatments in uncontrolled environments and the second developing digital image correlation for condition monitoring in-situ. The following research questions will be addressed:

  • Which re-lining methods perform best in historic house environments?
  • Can a damage function be developed to describe the physical risk to paintings in terms of the environmental parameters?
  • How beneficial is back-boarding without glazing?
  • Can the lining be analysed non-invasively using digital image correlation (DIC) and unilateral nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) to determine the state of conservation and remaining lifetime?