Home > Digital Library > Index of Newsletters > Vol. II No. 2 July - September 1994


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Conservation of Oil Paintings


Shri K. K. Gupta

K.K. Gupta, Graduated in Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics in 1965 and completed M.Sc. in Mathematics in 1967. Has been working in Conservation of Works of Art in the National Museum since 1966. Undertook training courses in Conservation at the National Museum in 1967 and later in 1974 at Tokyo National Research Institute of Cultural Property, Japan.


A Painting is a laminated structure with a number of layers. In general there are four layers viz. support, ground, paint and surface coating. A paint is a composition of colouring matter and medium. In an oil painting, the medium is drying oil. Due to its complex structure and due to interaction of various environmental factors, an oil painting gets deteriorated leading to alteration in its appearance and strength. The deterioration can be slowed by the control of these factors within safe limits. However, if the painting has already deteriorated, treatment of the damage becomes necessary. The action to be taken is decided after careful examination of the painting using different aids. Cleaning, reinforcement and protection are three main operations in conservation and the treatment depends upon the condition of the painting. Minimum alteration and reversibility of the treatment are the main considerations. Paintings are finally restored s close as feasible to their original form without interfering with the intention of the artist and keeping possible minimum differentiation between the original and the restoration. Surface coating is finally given to protect the painting and to give it a richer appearance, provided it does not go against the artist’s intention.


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