Paintings need to be well protected from light that can cause some elements of a painting to deteriorate. Certain pigments are vulnerable to fading from light exposure. Natural, halogen or fluorescent bulbs emit ultraviolet light that can fade pigments; LED and fibre optic lights are the best choices in display lighting; and filtered fluorescent lights are fine for task lighting.

Paintings should be kept in a stable environment where the temperature and humidity can be regulated. Too many fluctuations in temperature can cause the canvas to expand and contract and ultimately damage the surface of the painting. Paintings should be kept away from fireplaces, air conditioners and heaters.

Dirt and dust in the air can stick to the painting’s surface and change the appearance over time so keep the area clean and well ventilated. Cleaning a painting can be very risky so for particularly delicate or valuable works it is best to consult with a professional conservator.

Always be very careful when handling and moving paintings, especially when mounting or dismounting them from a display. For large pieces, always use at least two people to handle the item, and plan where you are moving it to in advance.

Store paintings securely in their frame and keep them well-padded and packaged. A painting should never be left exposed during storage. It is important to store paintings upright in a secure position so the painting won’t fall over, and make sure there are no sharp objects nearby that could fall and pierce the painting.

Learn more about how to care for paintings:


CCI Notes

(Canadian Conservation Institute)

Photo: Copyright Royal BC Museum.