Category Archives: Framing Artwork

Hanging and Framing FAQs

I am often asked questions regarding the hanging and framing of 2-dimensional artworks.  So, I have written a new post answering a few Hanging & Framing FAQ’s.  As there are many easily accessible videos available on how to hang a work of art yourself, I thought it best to focus on things I have learned from experience that many of those videos do not cover.  Although hanging a medium-sized work of art on a plasterboard wall at eye level is not difficult, I advise that for safety, any installation that requires a ladder be turned over to professional installers.  I have included tips on what information to gather before you contact an installer that should save you time and money in the long run.

An image of a person on a ladder hanging artwork in a stairwell
Although an interesting design idea, and maybe the only place the owner of this house had to hang this suite of works, it presents a very dangerous hanging problem that needed to be addressed by a professional fine art services company, not the furniture mover. This fellow is lucky he did not leave with a broken leg and trail of shattered frames and artwork.

Framing and hanging FAQ’s:

  1. Why is there a paper or cardboard backing on many framed 2-D works?
  2. Is it better to use mirror hangers (D rings) or wire to hang a work?
  3. What type of hangers should be used to hang artworks on a sheetrock wall?
  4. Is there a standard height for hanging 2-D artwork?
  5. If I decide to use two hangers rather than one to affix a wired artwork because of weight, should I do anything different?
  6. After establishing one hook in the wall and realizing that the hook needs to go up a quarter of an inch, what should I do?
  7. Can a hook be reused, and if I have removed the hook for any reason, should I just put the same hook back into the hole it was removed from?
  8. How should I prepare before contacting a professional installer?
1. Why is there a paper or cardboard backing on many framed 2-D works?

When you pick up a newly framed work from your frame shop, you will normally find that there is a backing of some kind on the verso of the artwork.  For a framed work on paper, the backing will usually also be paper, and for a framed canvas the backing will likely be foam core or a fluted cardboard.

For a work on paper, the paper backing is there to keep dust and insects from getting into the back of the frame assembly.  Most people will hang the newly framed work on the wall for the next 20 years and the backing will do its job.  However, if you rotate art in your frames, having to remove the paper and the messy double stick tape residue that is left is a lot of work.  If you are planning on reusing a frame regularly, it is best to ask your framer not to put the backing material on that frame.  If brown Kraft paper is used to back an artwork, over many years, it will become brittle and actually break up rather than tear.  When this starts to happen, it is probably time to have a framer check to see if the frame, and the artwork, need attention.

Examples of Foamcore and fluted cardboard.
Foamcore on top and fluted cardboard below are the materials most used to protect the back of a painting on canvas.

For paintings on canvas, a backing material such as foamcore or brown fluted cardboard is normally used.  These materials not only keep bugs and dust out, but they also protect the back of the canvas while the work is in transit.  It helps to prevent a hit or poke to the canvas from behind, especially if the artwork will be moved around a lot.  The best material for backing a stretched canvas is acid-free fluted cardboard which is often gray in color.  Although foam core is often used, over time, the foam between the paper layers will start to degrade and it will not be as effective as it was when it was new.  Brown fluted cardboard has a very high acid content and, over the long term, can adversely affect anything it is adjacent to.

An image of a piece of acid free carboard.
The best material for backing a stretched canvas is acid-free fluted cardboard which is often gray in color.
2. Is it better to use mirror hangers (D rings) or wire to hang a work?

The answer is, it depends. Both types of hanging methods work but here are a few reasons why one would be preferred over the other.

Mirror hangers:

  • + Best method for a long-term installation
  • + Will keep the artwork level
  • + In most cases, will hold the artwork closer to the wall
  • + Automatically puts less stress on the hanger and  frame
a selection of mirror hangers.
This is a selection of mirror hangers (also called “D” rings) showing their different sizes and shapes.

Wire:

  • + Often better for short term installations or for works that will be moved frequently
  • + Minimum impact on the wall as often one hanger can be used rather than two that are far apart.
  • + Wire now comes plastic coated and will last longer
  • – Uncoated braided hanging wire can rust and break over time
  • – Wire is under constant tension and may break over time
  • – May not stay level requiring occasional adjustment
  • – keeps a constant inward strain on the frame
  • – If two hooks are used and not placed properly, a constant sideways torquing pressure could be exerted on each hook causing them to eventually fail.

Caution:   Before you hang a work with wire, here is an easy way to be sure that the wire will safely hold the weight of the artwork.

  1. Lift the artwork by its wire about an inch off the floor so you can feel the force that is needed to lift it.
  2. Set the work back on the floor gently maintaining the same level of force on the wire it took to lift it.
  3. Place your other hand on top of the picture holding it down to the floor.
  4. Pull up on the wire with about 25% more force than it took to get it off the ground.
  5. If the wire breaks or is pulled from either of the mirror hangers holding it in place, have your framer replace or reset the wire, or just remove the wire, reset the hangers so they are vertical, and hang it from the mirror hangers instead.

Since screw eyes are not normally used today, their use often indicates that the wire is older and needs to be replaced.  When replacing the wire, mirror hangers should be retrofitted for the screw eyes because, especially in the case of older frames, as the wood dries and looses density the screw eye will lose its purchase and eventually fail.

An image of an old and inadequate hanging system.
This image illustrates a disaster waiting to happen. It combines old picture wire improperly attached to the screw eye and improperly twisted around itself. It would require very little force to either pull the wire out of the screw eye or pull the screw eye out of the wood frame.
A proper wire attachment to a mirror hanger.
This is a proper wire attachment to a small mirror hanger.

Tips on How to carry artworks:  Always carry an artwork upright facing you, holding it with two hands from both sides.  It is not a good idea to carry it from the top of the frame, and it is best not to carry it around by its hanging wire if it has one.  You are making a lot of assumptions by doing so and you have much less control over the artwork.

Man carrying an artwork from the sides, not the top.
It is best to carry any artwork from the sides, not from the top. Holding it to one side when walking with it will allow better visibility and if you trip, a greater chance of not falling on top of the artwork.

 

3. What type of hangers should be used to hang artworks on a Sheetrock wall?

Although there are many hanging systems available on the market today for hanging 2-D artworks on a Sheetrock wall, for home use, most professional art installers use a floreat-style hanger.  This type of hanger was designed to exert minimal impact on the structure of the Sheetrock, yet securely hold the weight each hook is rated for.  Each thin nail is made of strong high-grade steel and after the hook is installed, the nail can be removed in most cases by twisting it while pulling it out with your fingertips.  The design of the hook forces the nail to maintain an angle of 65 degrees as it goes into the sheetrock.

This image shows the cross section of a Flourite style hanger in a 1/2 inch thick piece of Sheetrock.
This image shows the cross section of a Floreat style hanger in a 1/2 inch thick piece of Sheetrock.

This angle is maintained so that most of the nail’s length is held in the structure of the rock.  When a painting’s wire or mirror hanger is placed onto the hook, the weight of the artwork pulls the hanger down flat, clamping it against the wall.  This combination makes for a strong hanging system.

Series of picture hanging hooks.
This lineup of five Floreat hangers shows the size recommended for the weight of artwork. Starting from the left, they are 10, 20, 30, 50, and 75 pound hooks. I suggest choosing the next size up from the weight you believe the artwork to be. IE, If you think the weight of the artwork to be hung is 16 pounds, don’t use the 20 pound hook, use the 30 pound.

Floreat hangers come in five weight levels:  10, 20, and 30-pound hooks use one nail, 50-pound hooks use two nails and 75-pound hooks use three nails.  As a rule of thumb, I always try to use a hook that is one weight level above what I think will hold the artwork.  If the artwork weighs about 15 pounds, I will use a 30-pound hook, not a 20-pound hook etc.

4. Is there a standard height for hanging 2-D artwork?

Yes and No.  If you ask a museum installer or gallery owner at what height they prefer to hang in their spaces, they will provide you with a number between 57 and 62 inches that they, or their institution prefers.  This number refers to the height above the floor of the center line of each medium size artwork they hang.  It is determined by the height of the wall, the size of the space, and the height that is most comfortable for the average person to view the work. (whatever average is)

Consistency is actually more important than the height that is chosen.  That is, if you have determined a hanging height that is most comfortable for you to view artworks in your home, then use that height consistently throughout the room and preferably the entire house depending on each room’s ceiling height.  Imagine how a line of medium-sized artworks would look in a museum if they hung each one at a different center line height.

Image showing center line height of 60 inches on a group of hanging artworks.
The center line drawn across the four paintings above is 60 inches above the floor. Much larger artworks, depending on their scale, may need to be raised or lowered depending on the circumstance. The same goes for smaller works hung one above the other. The center line height is helpful when hanging a lot of works together, salon style, to be sure they will feel balanced on the wall.

These center line height numbers become irrelevant if a painting is too large to work with the center line height chosen for everything else, but the height at which a larger painting is hung needs to relate comfortably to what is around it.  And of course, this number is not helpful if you are hanging over furniture or a fireplace.

Tip:  Do not intentionally try to line up the top of larger artworks with the top of a door or window frame.  If it happens to line up because you are following an established center line height it is fine, but the room will feel a bit odd if works are hung a little high or low just to have them match another architectural feature that will create a visual line around the room.

5. If I decide to use two hangers rather than one to hang a wired artwork because of weight, should I do anything different?

I recommend that when using two hooks, especially two or three nail hooks, they be canted inward so that the weight of the wire does not put stress on the nails and hook when hung.  With one hook, because the wire forms a mountain shape, the weight vector is straight down.

Image showing how a wire looks when hung by single hook.
A single hook makes a mountain shape with the wire and exerts an even downward force on the hook.

With two hooks the wire forms a mesa shape and the direction of the weight vector can be as much as 20 degrees off the vertical.   If both hooks are nailed in vertically, as one would place a single hook.  When the weight of the artwork is placed on it, it will have a constant sideways pull possibly causing an eventual failure.

Showing a two hanger installation.
When two hooks are used, the wire makes the shape of a mesa, not a mountain. Note that when using two hooks, they are nailed into the wall so they cant in towards one another. This is so the force on each hook is balanced and equally downward like when a single hook is used. Otherwise, if hung strait down like a single hook, the wire would create a constant inward force twisting the nail and eventually weakening its connection to the wall.
6. After establishing one hook in the wall and discovering that the hook needs to go up a quarter of an inch, what should I do?

You can move the hook ¼ inch to the left, to the right, or below,  but do not move the hook ¼ inch up.  Since a hole was created in the Sheetrock from pounding the nail in for the first time, placing a nail ¼ inch above that hole means that the structure of the Sheetrock beneath the hook is now compromised and can fail.

If hanging the artwork from mirror hangers (D rings), move the hanger on the opposite side down ¼ inch to compensate.  If hanging the artwork from wire using one hook, remeasure, and use two hooks rather than one.  That will not only keep the artwork from eventually shifting out of level, it will double the amount of weight that can be held by just one hook.

7. Can a hook be reused, and if I have removed the hook for any reason, should I just put the same hook back into the hole it was removed from?

The answer to the first part of the question is yes, if the nail is not bent or damaged in any way.  The answer to the second part is more complicated.  Using the same hole in the Sheetrock again can be tricky if one is not experienced in hanging or working with Sheetrock.  If the hook fits snugly and the hook does not move around loosely in the hole, and the hook holds a lot more weight than the artwork that is to be rehung, you are probably fine.  If you are concerned, use the hook in a slightly different location or replace a one-nail hook with a two nail, or a two-nail with a three.

8. How should I prepare before contacting a professional installer?

It is always best to use a professional art installer to hang your art.   Most installers work by the hour and you can save money by telling them the size and approximate weight of each artwork you want hung, where it is to be placed, and the type of wall they will be hanging the artwork on.  With this information, they can work up a more accurate estimate, bring the appropriate manpower, and the proper hanging equipment for the project.  Photographs of the front and back of each artwork, including their frames, and area photographs of the rooms that include the walls where the artwork is to be installed will be helpful.

I hope you find some of these suggestions helpful.  If you have any other questions regarding the hanging, framing artwork, or anything else related to the art world, send an inquiry to info@fineartestates.com.

*****

To see all available FAE Design Blog Posts,  jump to the Design Blog Table of Contents.

To see all available FAE Collector Blog Posts, jump to the Collector Blog Table of Contents.

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For comments about this blog or suggestions for a future post, contact Kevin at kvogel@fineartestates.com.

Other FAE informational posts you may find helpful:
Fine Art Insurance 101Broken sculpture

 

An image of a painting carefully placed in the back seat of a carPractical Tips for Safely Transporting Artwork
An image of artworks carefully placed on on a bedTemporarily Storing Artwork: A Case Study
an image of a wall of shelves holding print boxesFour Artwork Storage Solutions
Hanging and Framing FAQ’s
outdoor image of a line of figure sculptures with arms raisedSiting Sculpture, Part One: Overview

 

facade of a modern house with a round sculpture sited in the front yardSiting Sculpture: Part Two, A Case Study
image of a wall of frame samplesThe Importance of a Proper Frame

 

an image of a graphic showing the entire spectrum of viable and non-visible lightWhen to Use UV Control Glazing
Two images showing an image of a flower behind reflective and reflection free glassReflection on the Problem of Reflections

 

The FAE Design Blog Table of Contents:

As a service provided by FAE, the following informational posts cover a series of art related subjects, designed to demystify working with fine art, and tips on how best to use the FAE Website.  The FAE Design Blog table of Contents has been divided into the following categories:
  1. Most Recent Post

  2. Safe Handling of Artwork

  3. Artwork Installation

  4. Framing Artwork

  5. Fine Prints

  6. How to get the most out of the FAE Website

___________

1. Most Recent Post:

Fine Art Insurance 101Broken sculpture

 

 

2. Safe Handling of Artwork:

Fine Art Insurance 101Broken sculpture
An image of a painting carefully placed in the back seat of a carPractical Tips for Safely Transporting Artwork
An image of artworks carefully placed on on a bedTemporarily Storing Artwork: A Case Study
an image of a wall of shelves holding print boxesFour Artwork Storage Solutions

 

 

3. Artwork Installation:

Hanging and Framing FAQ’s
outdoor image of a line of figure sculptures with arms raisedSiting Sculpture, Part One: Overview

 

facade of a modern house with a round sculpture sited in the front yardSiting Sculpture: Part Two, A Case Study

 

4. Framing Artwork:

image of a wall of frame samplesThe Importance of a Proper Frame

 

an image of a graphic showing the entire spectrum of viable and non-visible lightWhen to Use UV Control Glazing
Two images showing an image of a flower behind reflective and reflection free glassReflection on the Problem of Reflections

 

5. Fine Pints:

a panoramic image of the press room of a fine art publisherThe Value in Fine and Reproductive Prints
an image showing the print and print edition numberWhat Does That Fraction Mean on a Fine Print?

 

6. How to get the most out of the FAE website:

An image of the entrance to the Valley House Gallery Sculpture GardenWelcome to FAE!
See art on your wall with the app.Announcing the FAE App, now available from iTunes!
Image showing the FAE app on the apple App StoreWill It Work in My Space?

 

Composite image showing how a presentation can be made from FAE dataAnatomy of a View

 

Image showing painting over fireplaceCreating Stunning Presentations with FAE

 

 

*****

To see all available FAE Collector Blog Posts, jump to the Collector Blog Table of Contents.

Sign up with FAE to receive our newsletter, and never miss a new blog post or update! 

Browse fine artworks available to purchase on FAE.  Follow us on FacebookInstagram, or Twitter to stay updated about FAE and new blog posts.

For comments about this blog or suggestions for a future post, contact Kevin at kvogel@fineartestates.com.

The Importance of a Proper Frame

Please do not underestimate the importance of a proper frame for your painting or fine print. Framing is an important design decision that can either enhance or diminish your art viewing experience. The framing decisions you make will not only affect the look of the artwork and the environment into which it will be placed, but its long-term well being as well.
This image shows the importance of a proper frame.
Without a frame to keep this image contained, the compositional elements that make up this image seem to fly out of the picture plane.
This is showing how a frame can make a subject much clearer.
This frame visually refocuses the viewer’s attention to the sunflowers, that make up the central part of the composition, making the painting feel far less chaotic.

How the artwork will be used can inform frame choice. If it is framed for a collection or museum – because it will most likely be moved from place to place over time – the most important consideration is that the frame compliments, enhances and protects the artwork. If it is to be installed in a commercial setting where it is most likely permanently placed, in addition to helping to enhance and protect the artwork, it needs to fit in with the overall design of the room.

Artworks are framed to the work, not the space.
Installation of Modernist paintings at the Philadelphia Museum. Because these works will be moved to different locations over time, each frame is designed to fit the painting rather than the specific space.
Artworks framed to fit the space, along with the artwork.
These three paintings in a corporate collection are framed to fit the art as well as the space because they will not be moved like they would in a private or museum collection.

For your artwork to have the best chance of retaining its value, it is best to be sure that the frame shop you have chosen practices archival framing techniques. Essentially, Archival or Conservation framing means that anything used in the framing of an artwork will not damage the artwork over the long term and will, in most cases, help to protect it. This is most important with works on paper.

This image shows proper conservation framing technique.
This Georgian Bay Art Conservation exploded view shows proper archival framing of an artwork on paper. This would be the standard suggested method of framing a cherished work on paper.

How to find a good Framer?

If you are working with a designer, they will most likely have several framers they regularly work with to recommend for your specific need. If you are not working with a designer, and you feel uncomfortable making this type of decision yourself, a good frame shop will normally have an experienced person on staff who can assist you in making good framing decisions.

One of the best ways to find a good framer is to contact several art galleries around your area that do not have framing departments and ask them who the best conservation framers are in the area. Although conservation framing is more expensive, the extra expense will pay off down the road.

Image of a frame shop.
You will not know if you have found a frame shop that uses archival materials unless you ask the right questions.  The first question you ask should be, “Do you provide framing to the most current archival standards?”

How to help the framer help you get the most suitable frame?

For a framer to be most effective at suggesting proper frame designs for your artwork, it is best to not only take the artwork to the meeting, but to also take:

• Photos of the entire room in which the artwork will reside
• Measurements of the wall onto which the artwork is to be hung
• Information and visuals on how the artwork will be lit.

And if the artwork is to be hung over a sofa, a chest, or a fireplace mantle:

• Be sure to provide the height of the object the artwork is to be placed above
• Provide the height of the wall above the object to the ceiling molding above.

Following are a few things you may want to avoid or at least think about when choosing a frame for your artwork. I was going to call this section “Framing Don’ts” but as with just about every rule in this world, there are always exceptions.

Over-framing:

Over-framing can relate to the disproportionately large size of a frame to the artwork it surrounds, or the inappropriate ornateness or finish of the frame related to the period, style, and subject of the artwork. Sometimes, to make a small artwork appear more significant looking, a much larger frame (or mat-and-frame combination) is employed, sometimes to the point of totally overpowering the artwork. I have seen this technique used often on late impressions of Rembrandt etchings. To make them more important looking, a small etching is surrounded by a complex frame, often 10 to 20 times the size of the actual etching.

Two images showing frames that overpower what is in them.
Although the frame above and below are both beautiful frames, both overpower and upstage the artworks themselves and I would consider both of these works to be over-framed. The one above might have worked if the gold had been toned down and not so shiny. The bright gold and frenetic ornamentation makes the artwork inside seem insignificant and hard to look at. The artwork below works well in coloration with the portrait within, but again, its design is so frenetic, the eye is drawn away from the painting. A frame should never take away from an artwork, it should only compliment it.

Same painting as above but in an appropriate frame.
Here is the same portrait as above in an appropriate period frame. It beautifully compliments the painting and after seeing it, you can’t imagine another frame could be better for the painting.

Under-framing

Under-framing is when an artwork is not provided the frame it deserves. For financial and sometimes practical reasons, artists who paint in oil and acrylic on canvas will either not frame or put strip molding around the artwork to protect the artwork’s edges, assuming that the person who buys the painting will frame the work to their own specifications. Some galleries will not frame any of the work they have for sale of this type for that same reason.

These two images show how a simple frame can improve an artworks overall appearance.
The late Constructivist work, pictured above, would not look right on most walls without something around it to contain its chaotic line work. In this case, under-framed is no frame at all. Even a thin strip molding or a simple wood float, as seen below, will contain the line work and improve its overall appearance.

The 50/50 rule

This rule pertains to the width of two-part frame assemblies, that is, a liner to its frame or a mat to its frame. The rule states that both these elements should never be perceptively the same width. So, the mat width on a fine print should never be, or look, the same width as the frame that surrounds it. If the mat was there first and it is decided that it is to be kept, the width of the frame that is chosen for the work needs to be significantly smaller or larger to feel right.

Image showing the problem with a 50/50 proportion.
This is a good example of why the 50/50 rule is important. Proportionally, the top and bottom relationship of the frame to the mat is on the verge of being to close but is still acceptable, where the left and right relationships appear the same and do not look right. The fact that the mat sizes of the top and the side are different might indicate that the frame was being reused. Normally the mat proportions would be the same all around or a little greater at the bottom. When there is more space at the bottom than the rest of the mat, it is said that the mat is “weighted at the bottom.”
This image shows a much more pleasing proportion than the 50/50 proportion seen in the first image.
In this example, the artwork is floated on the frames back mat creating a visual empty space between the artwork and the frame. It shows a pleasing proportion between the artwork, the mat space, and the wide frame. Like above, this is an example of an artwork being used in a preexisting frame evidenced by the larger spaces at the top and bottom than at the left and right of the artwork.
This image shows a better solution than the 50/50 proportion between the mat and the artwork.
Here is the most common proper proportion for a matted work on paper. The frame is substantial enough to support the frame assembly and there is an amount of space between the artwork and the frame that makes the artwork look significant. If you doubled the amount of mat space all around, it would appear less significant and over-framed.

Formal/Informal 

In most cases, like clothes, it is usually appropriate to dress an artwork to fit the room in which it is to be sited. This means the room will often dictate the type of frames that will be appropriate to choose for that space. It is normally inappropriate to put a driftwood frame above a Louis XV gilded commode in a period room.

These images show formal and informal rooms and how the artworks would look if interchanged.
If one is not a collector and the artworks are to remain in the room they are in for an extended period, the frames on the artworks should feel comfortable in the space. Above is a very formal living room and below is a very informal one. As you can see, the frames on the paintings would feel totally out of place if they were switched around.

Keep original frames

Frame styles change with the fashion and period in which the artwork was created. Sometimes the original frame on an artwork does not fit a contemporary space so it is decided that the frame needs to be changed. Separating a period frame from an older artwork can actually reduce the value of the artwork. If it is decided a change of frame is necessary, it is wise to store the original frame so it can be reused later.

There is a lady who owns a major American modernist painting for which the artist personally made and decorated the frame. She personally disliked the frame, so she had the painting re-framed to suit her home and the original is stored at a local art warehouse. The painting is loaned out to museum shows with great regularity and when it is, the art movers take the painting to the warehouse, change out the frame to the artist’s original frame, and send it out to the museum. When it returns, the process is reversed, and the painting is returned to her in the frame she prefers. If she had discarded the frame, she would have thrown away many thousands of dollars in value.

Image showing an artwork with an artist made frame.
This is an example of a frame that the artist made specifically for this painting. Although it might not fit the taste of the person who owns the painting, it would be a costly mistake to re-frame the artwork and to not keep the original as it would actually devalue the artwork.

*****

To see all available FAE Design Blog Posts,  jump to the Design Blog Table of Contents.

To see all available FAE Collector Blog Posts, jump to the Collector Blog Table of Contents.

Sign up with FAE to receive our newsletter, and never miss a new blog post or update! 

Browse fine artworks available to purchase on FAE.  Follow us on FacebookInstagram, or Twitter to stay updated about FAE and new blog posts.

For comments about this blog or suggestions for a future post, contact Kevin at kvogel@fineartestates.com.

Other FAE informational posts you may find helpful:
Fine Art Insurance 101Broken sculpture

 

An image of a painting carefully placed in the back seat of a carPractical Tips for Safely Transporting Artwork
An image of artworks carefully placed on on a bedTemporarily Storing Artwork: A Case Study
an image of a wall of shelves holding print boxesFour Artwork Storage Solutions
Hanging and Framing FAQ’s
outdoor image of a line of figure sculptures with arms raisedSiting Sculpture, Part One: Overview

 

facade of a modern house with a round sculpture sited in the front yardSiting Sculpture: Part Two, A Case Study
image of a wall of frame samplesThe Importance of a Proper Frame

 

an image of a graphic showing the entire spectrum of viable and non-visible lightWhen to Use UV Control Glazing
Two images showing an image of a flower behind reflective and reflection free glassReflection on the Problem of Reflections

 

Reflection on the Problem of Reflections

Back when our gallery had a frame shop, the only option to reduce reflection on artworks that needed glazing was to ask for Non-Glare glass.  Although this was a poor solution, it was the only solution at the time.  Non-Glare glass had one side sandblasted so any reflected light would be dispersed, making the reflection look like a blob of light on the surface of the glass rather than returning a harsh reflection.  We refused to use this glass because to actually see the artwork properly.  You had to place the glass directly on the artwork, otherwise it would appear like you were looking at it through fog, and it is never a good idea to have glass sitting directly on an artwork in a frame assembly. (1.)  So to understand what products are available today and how they work, and sometimes don’t, following are some reflections on the problem of reflections as they relate to glazed artworks.

Today, the best way to handle the problem of reflection is to use a glazing material onto which an AR (anti-reflective) coating has been applied.  This is a similar coating that is now used on eye glass lenses that allows you to actually see a person’s eyes and it all but eliminates glare from oncoming car headlights at night.

The AR coating is designed to disrupt the energy contained in light waves causing them to flow out of sync.  Under most conditions, AR glass helps reduce reflections to the point that they are not much of a problem, but it does not eliminate all reflection issues.  From my personal experience, the coating’s effectiveness is related to how well lit the artwork is and the direction of the light source.

Diagram of rooms described below. Primary reflection problem was solved by changing glazing material to AR coated glass, turning on the living room lights, and the lamp beside the artwork.

This became evident to me when a client said she had a problem with reflection on an artwork in her living room.  I suggested using AR coated glass thinking that that would most likely solve her reflection problem.  I had the glass switched out and she called to let me know that the glass was still acting like a mirror.  When I arrived to see what the problem might be, I discovered that, to my surprise, the artwork’s AR coated glass presented the exact same problem with reflection that the uncoated glass did.  I noticed the room where the artwork was hanging and the dining room, across from the artwork, were both kept dark.  At the opposite end of the dining room was a large picture window that was allowing a lot of light into the dining room.  There was a door between the kitchen and the dining room she frequently used and as she walked through the two dark rooms, all she saw when she looked at the artwork was the reflection of the picture window at the far end of the dining room.  I suggested that we turn on a lamp next to the artwork and discovered that the reflection issue was greatly reduced.

The takeaway of this story is that if an artwork has AR glazing and is well lit compared to its surrounding area, most reflection sources will be minimized and may not be noticed at all, especially if a viewer is focused on the artwork itself and not on the reflection source.  In fact, I have often looked at artworks that have AR glazing and wondered why they weren’t glazed, only to discover on close examination that they were.  If an artwork is underlit compared to its surrounding area and there is a lot of reflection, don’t be disappointed, it is just how the AR coating works.  The solution is to either put more light on the artwork or reduce the amount of light in the surrounding area compared to what is already on the artwork.

Light source and highly reflective areas will be visible in the glazing if the artwork itself is not properly lighted.

Overhead lighting also helps to reduce reflections compared to lighting with lamps that are at the same height as the viewer.  If you are standing beside an AR glazed artwork and there is a lamp on the opposite side of the artwork at the same angle and distance away from the artwork you are, you will see the lamp reflected in its glazing.  With overhead lighting, the viewer would have to be looking up from the floor to see the reflection of the light above.  AR glazing does have its limitations, but considering its old alternative, Non-Glare, it is a panacea.

Reflection is all about the light sources surrounding a glazed artwork and their relation to the viewer. The best lighting method for glazed works on paper is from above unless an artwork is hung high on a wall.

As I mentioned in our last blogpost, When to use UV control glazing, the folks at Tru Vue have a good helpdesk and their technical department can answer most any glazing related framing or installation question.  Their help desk number is 708-854-2700 and their email is fineart@tru-vue.co.

  1.   I know of no circumstance where it is good for a glazing material to be in contact with an artwork on paper.  If there is no other framing choice than to have the glazing material in contact with the artwork, it is better to use Plexiglas rather than glass.  Quick changes in temperature and humidity can cause glass to fog over, even on the inside of a frame assembly.  If this happens with a work on paper, especially if the glass is in contact with the artwork, the paper can absorb the moisture creating a perfect environment for mold to grow, the paper to be stained, pigments to react adversely, or wrinkling; none of which are going to be good for the artwork.

*****

To see all available FAE Design Blog Posts,  jump to the Design Blog Table of Contents.

To see all available FAE Collector Blog Posts, jump to the Collector Blog Table of Contents.

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Browse fine artworks available to purchase on FAE.  Follow us on FacebookInstagram, or Twitter to stay updated about FAE and new blog posts.

For comments about this blog or suggestions for a future post, contact Kevin at kvogel@fineartestates.com.

Other FAE informational posts you may find helpful:
Fine Art Insurance 101Broken sculpture

 

An image of a painting carefully placed in the back seat of a carPractical Tips for Safely Transporting Artwork
An image of artworks carefully placed on on a bedTemporarily Storing Artwork: A Case Study
an image of a wall of shelves holding print boxesFour Artwork Storage Solutions
Hanging and Framing FAQ’s
outdoor image of a line of figure sculptures with arms raisedSiting Sculpture, Part One: Overview

 

facade of a modern house with a round sculpture sited in the front yardSiting Sculpture: Part Two, A Case Study
image of a wall of frame samplesThe Importance of a Proper Frame

 

an image of a graphic showing the entire spectrum of viable and non-visible lightWhen to Use UV Control Glazing
Two images showing an image of a flower behind reflective and reflection free glassReflection on the Problem of Reflections

 

When to Use UV Control Glazing

Have you ever had a framer tell you that you can protect a work on paper from fading just by putting UV (Ultraviolet) protective glass or Plexiglas on the artwork?  Even though your framer is normally the one that suggests when to use UV control glazing, what they tell you may be truthful without being accurate regarding its effectiveness in your situation.  So, here are some suggestions on when to use uv control glazing to prevent artwork fading.

What your framer should have said is that depending on where a work on paper is hung, UV protective glass and Plexiglass can help protect it from fading. Ultraviolet light is the most damaging part of the light spectrum to fugitive pigments on paper and other materials that are prone to fading, like fabrics and furniture. High end UV protective glazing material is rated to block up to 99% of the Ultraviolet rays hitting an artwork’s surface. Just remember that UV may be the worst part of the spectrum, but it is only a small part of the spectrum that can cause damage. A greater issue is the overall amount of visible light that is hitting the artwork and the amount of time it is getting hit. Think of it as slow or fast fading.

• Little light over an extended period of time = slow fading
• A lot of light over a short time = fast fading

Image of graph showing the entire know light spectrum. What is most important here is the Ultraviolet and viable sections of the light specturm.
Ultraviolet light, the most damaging part of the light spectrum to works on paper, is in the sweet spot between visible light and x-rays. This means that UV is in the part of the spectrum that is higher energy than visible light but the rays do not go through the artwork like x-rays will. The UV rays penetrate the surface and are absorbed by the paper like a sunburn on skin. Because UV light is not visible to humans, removing it from the spectrum by using UV control glazing does not have much effect on the fidelity of an artwork.

If a work on paper was to be hung in a lightless closet, with properly controlled temperature and humidity that is never opened, it does not matter if it has UV protective glazing or not as it will not fade, at least not from light exposure.

If a work on paper is hung in a bright living room with big curtain-less picture windows looking out over a lake that reflects light into the room, even with UV glazing and protective windows the artwork will fade over time and the paper will darken. In the trade, when referring to the darkening of paper by excessive light, an art dealer would say that the artwork has been “light struck.”

two images that show how exposure to light can fade colors in a print.
Left image is unfaded and right image is a composite image showing faded work on the left side and unfaded work on the right.

For most light sensitive materials, light damage is cumulative and irreversible. So, what are the best ways of minimizing the effects of light damage to an artwork on paper?

Museums have different regiments they follow regarding the amount of light exposure each work on paper can have. Each work is normally evaluated to determine how sensitive it is. It is then assigned an allowable exposure schedule, amount of time it can be on view, and a maximum allowable light level for the duration of that time. For example, a sturdy work might be allowed to be on exhibit for 4 months at a specific light level and then rest for two years, or for 6 months at that light level and rest for three years. A more fragile work may require lower light and less time on view.

Don’t Panic! The Museum protocol I have just described is designed to meet the museum’s charge to protect what they have collected or are exhibiting.  Your clients want something they can hang on the wall and enjoy for the next 20 years. So, to accomplish this goal I suggest the following:

• For works on paper that you or your client consider valuable and want to last as long as possible, definitely use UV protective glazing as it greatly reduces the most damaging aspect of the light spectrum.

• Hang in rooms with minimal light during the day like hallways or bedrooms that are not in continuous use and are normally kept dark.

• Keep lights off when rooms are not in use.

• If an artwork is hung in a room that has windows that allow a lot of light into the room during the day, add blackout curtains to the window that can be closed when no one is using the room. Codes for new buildings in most areas require that windows block a lot of the light coming in for reasons of energy conservation. This can greatly extend the life of curtains, rugs, and furniture as well as the art by reducing the amount and intensity of light entering a room and therefore slow fading.

• Have blackout fabric covers made for the artwork in rooms that window curtains are not an option or skylights let light in that cannot be blocked. They can incorporate a weighted rod at the top that can be draped over the top of the frame with the fabric hanging over the front of the artwork. This will allow quick access to works when you want to view them and they can remain hung indefinably without overexposure to light.

These two images show how opaque fabric covers can protect an artwork from fading.  

• Keep these works out of often used bedroom bathrooms and kitchens. These rooms often are subject to high humidity and temperatures, and other issues with that I will address in a future post. They are also rooms that would normally be well lit and where you would not normally want artwork that needs protective covers to keep them from fading.

• Place UV tube covers over your fluorescent lights. Of the three main light sources in homes and offices used today – Fluorescent, Incandescent, and LED – Florescent light, for the same amount of lumens output, is the most damaging because it produces the most UV light.

• If LED lights are producing the same number of lumens as your incandescent bulbs do, they are causing an equal level of fading to your works on paper.

One of the main manufacturers of conservation-grade UV protection glazing is Tru Vue. They have an excellent highly informed and well-educated customer support staff. If you need clarification, again no pun intended, as to whether UV protective glass and Plexi will work in a specific application, give them a call.
Tru Vue help line: Phone: 708-854-2700
Email: fineart@tru-vue.com

Note:  Not that it is my field but I was informed by the folks at Tru Vue that one of the most frequent calls they get is from signature collectors who have used their products and have had their valuable signatures fade from being out on display in rooms that have too much light.  Their glass was doing what it was supposed to but many framers are often not aware that UV glass alone will not stop fading, it only helps to slow it down.  The recommendations I have made above should help with this issue.   Another interesting thing they said is that often, ink signatures seem to fade very quickly to a certain point and then the fading process seems to slow.  So the maximum amount of damage happens in the earliest part of their exposure.

*****

To see all available FAE Design Blog Posts,  jump to the Design Blog Table of Contents.

To see all available FAE Collector Blog Posts, jump to the Collector Blog Table of Contents.

Sign up with FAE to receive our newsletter, and never miss a new blog post or update! 

Browse fine artworks available to purchase on FAE.  Follow us on FacebookInstagram, or Twitter to stay updated about FAE and new blog posts.

For comments about this blog or suggestions for a future post, contact Kevin at kvogel@fineartestates.com.

Other FAE informational posts you may find helpful:
Fine Art Insurance 101Broken sculpture

 

An image of a painting carefully placed in the back seat of a carPractical Tips for Safely Transporting Artwork
An image of artworks carefully placed on on a bedTemporarily Storing Artwork: A Case Study
an image of a wall of shelves holding print boxesFour Artwork Storage Solutions
Hanging and Framing FAQ’s
outdoor image of a line of figure sculptures with arms raisedSiting Sculpture, Part One: Overview

 

facade of a modern house with a round sculpture sited in the front yardSiting Sculpture: Part Two, A Case Study
image of a wall of frame samplesThe Importance of a Proper Frame

 

an image of a graphic showing the entire spectrum of viable and non-visible lightWhen to Use UV Control Glazing
Two images showing an image of a flower behind reflective and reflection free glassReflection on the Problem of Reflections