When our paintings first arrive from Russia, some of them, especially the older ones, are dirty and sometimes damaged from years of lying around instacks in the artists’ studios, traveling to shows around Russia, or hanging in various public buildings. We clean and restore these paintings.
The cleaning of dirty paintings isprobably the most painstaking of all the steps of the restoration process.
Removing old varnish
The painting to be cleaned must first be stripped of any old varnish that has yellowed on it, and thisinvolves a compound of chemicals that will soften and remove the old varnish while not harming the painting. Usually if there is old varnish on the painting, once we remove it, the painting is clean,because varnish protects the painting from dirt.
Cleaning the painting surface
[pic]The bottom half of this painting is cleaned, while the top is not. The white areas on the left are holesthat will require restoration. Click to view a larger version.
If the painting was never varnished, the painting may pick up dust, grime and fly specks (small black dots that are literally excrementleft by flies on any surfaces - they are not noticeable on most surfaces except by close inspection) over time. To remove the dirt from the surface of the painting, we use a different compound ofchemicals: again, strong enough to remove the dirt but gentle enough not to disturb the paint itself. The chemicals are applied to the surface of the painting with a cotton swab, and then removed using afresh swab. This process is repeated until the area is clean. We strategically clean our paintings one small section at a time, concentrating on getting one small area completely clean before movingto the next area.
[pic]Detail of a painting before restoration
Some paintings we import from Russia have been extremely well taken care of. Others,...