How to care for paintings
Tiakitanga o te peita

Learn how to preserve paintings.

Handling

Be careful when handling paintings, especially if mounting or dismounting them. For a large piece, use at least two people and plan where you’ll move it to in advance.

Displaying

Protect paintings from light, which can cause deterioration. Incandescent bulbs are considered safe to use. Natural, halogen, and fluorescent bulbs emit ultraviolet light, which can fade pigments.

Keep paintings in a stable environment where the temperature and humidity can be regulated. Fluctuations in temperature can cause canvas to expand and contract, damaging the surface over time. Keep paintings away from fireplaces, air conditioners, and heaters.

Keep the area clean and well ventilated. Dirt and dust in the air can stick to the painting’s surface and change the appearance over time.

Storing

Never leave a painting exposed during storage. Store it securely in its frame, and keep it well padded and packaged. Keep it upright in a secure position away from sharp objects that could fall and pierce it.

Cleaning

Like people, paintings deteriorate as they age. Varnishes can darken and discolour, spoiling a painting’s appearance. Not all the effects of aging can be reversed – some must be accepted as part of the painting.

Cleaning a painting requires skill and special materials. For particularly delicate or valuable works, consult a professional conservator.

Te Papa’s conservation of Chevalier’s Cook Strait showcases the work of our professional conservators.

More resources

American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works: Paintings