When Pastel Is Damaged

Fire... water damage... even a heavy layer of dirt can obscure a painting's color, details - and sometimes, your judgement.

"It's ruined!" might be a collector's first reaction, but read on for an example of art that was rescued.

I'm not afraid of heights - a good thing when the scaffold places me thirty feet above a marble floor. Recently, I supervised the cleaning of a large Crucifixion painting in a Harlem church. The accumulated soot and grime was heavy, obscuring the painting's details and color. While removing the dirt, I saw that the artist changed his or her mind during its creation, altering details and painting over them. Over time, the underpainting began to show through the top layers, and ghosts began to appear. I always find it strangely satisfying to encounter these anomalies; they remind me that imperfection is part of us all.



You saw the Huffington Post article, right? At least fifteen people sent me a link to a story about an unfortunate incident regarding a different portrait of Jesus. Read on for that story, and to see the "after" photo of the poor, shredded deity pictured here.


This is an excellent example of the difference that quality restoration can make in the enjoyment of a painting. When my client brought in this lovely painting by Annie Taylor Burt, I tested a small area at the edge. Finding bright white under the dirt, we were both excited to see how the piece would look once cleaned. 

A brand new client walked into my studio and declared, "My wife bought this little painting for $40 at a tag sale. It isn't worth anything!"

"Hmmm," I thought, "Even under the grime, I can see it's painted well..."