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Fine Art/Oil worth expert care?


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I just bought an oil on canvas painting - that I like, but my husband thinks looks too dingy and dirty.  I didn't pay a lot for it, but figure even if the painting is worthless, the frame is nice!  Anyway, If it is worthless, I'll have a go at cleaning it myself, but would hate to ruin something.  There is a signiture of H Wood on it, and it measures 29x19 inches.  

Any advice would be appreciated!

Thank you very much.


Dear Traci,

Thank you for your question.  From your photo, the painting honestly doesn't look to be in bad shape. I am not familiar with an 'H Wood', but I would in any case recommend having a professional take a look at the painting rather than having a go at cleaning it yourself.  When professional conservators clean paintings, they use various chemicals and solvents that won't damage the work; although I can appreciate the temptation to try some oils or other household products (one historical remedy is rubbing a potato on a painting, which I don't recommend either!), there is really nothing you can do to clean the work yourself that won't result in some level of damage.  That said, professional conservators are quite expensive, so the real question is whether the painting is worth that expense. An honest conservator will tell you if treatment is more costly than the work is worth.  As far as finding a conservator, you might ask your local museum whom they would recommend.  I believe you indicated you are in the UK: You can look at the membership of the British Association of Paintings Conservators-Restorers ( and see if that yields some contacts for you. Some universities also have conservation programmes -- the Courtauld Institute of Art, for example --, and they can possibly recommend a restorer and/or tell you more about your painting.  In the end, I can't say whether the painting will be worth the expense, but I would err on the side of further investigation before trying anything yourself.  

Good luck!

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Elliott H. King


As a professional art historian, I can answer questions related to the art and life of Salvador Dalí. I am neither an art broker nor an appraiser, so I cannot answer questions regarding a work's value or authenticity; however, I can refer you to individuals who work in the Dali market.


I am an art historian specializing in Salvador Dalí. For over ten years, I have been a pioneer in the critical study of ‘Late Dalí’ (i.e., the artist's work after 1940). I have presented extensively on aspects of Dalí’s production at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Tate Modern, L’Université de Lausanne, Cerisy la Salle, the University of London, and Harvard University, and I have been a guest lecturer at Cambridge University and the University of Chicago. I have published several essays about Dalí in addition to my book, 'Dalí, Surrealism, and Cinema' (Kamera Books, 2007). I have also contributed to major international exhibitions of Dalí's work, including the Dalí Centenary Exhibition (2004-05) and 'Dalí & Film' (2007-08).

BOOKS "Dalí: The Late Work", High Museum of Art, Atlanta in association with Yale UP, 2010. "Dalí, Surrealism and Cinema", Kamera Books, Herts (UK), 2007. ESSAYS, ARTICLES AND CHAPTERS • “Little Black Dress, Little Red Book: Dalí, Mao, and Monarchy (with Special Attention to Trajan’s Glorious Testicles)”, in Michael R. Taylor (ed.), The Dalí Renaissance: New Perspectives on His Life and Art after 1940, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, 2008, pp. 90111. • “The Prodigious Story of the Lacemaker and the Rhinoceros”, in ibid, pp. 190204. • “Crazy Movies That Disappear”, in Matthew Gale (ed.), Dalí and Film, Tate Publishing, London / Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2007, pp. 214229. Published also in Spanish as "Dalí y el cine", Electa, Madrid, 2008. • “Le temps dalínien fait mouche: Réflexions sur les « montres molles »”, in Astrid Ruffa, Philippe Kaenel, Danielle Chaperon (eds.), "Salvador Dalí à la croisée des savoirs", Éditions Desjonquères, Paris, 2007, pp. 3752. • “Winged Fantasy with Lead Feet: The Influence of Llullism and Hiparxiologi on Dalí’s Mysticism”, in Hank Hine, William Jeffett and Kelly Reynolds (eds.), "Persistence & Memory: New Critical Perspectives on Dalí at the Centennial", Bompiani Arte, Milan, 2004, pp. 189193. EXHIBITION CATALOGUES: ENTRIES • Dawn Ades and Michael R. Taylor (eds.), "Dalí", Bompiani Arte, Milan, 2004. EXHIBITION CATALOGUES: BIBLIOGRAPHIES, FILMOGRAPHIES AND CHRONOLOGIES • “Dalí Filmography”, published in Matthew Gale (ed.), "Dalí and Film", op.cit., pp. 230231. • “A Cinematic Chronology of Dalí, 19411989”, in ibid, pp. 160163. • Compiled the most complete bibliography of Dalí resources todate, published in Dawn Ades and Michael R. Taylor (eds.), "Dalí", op.cit., pp. 568598.

Ph.D, Art History and Theory (2010) University of Essex, Colchester, England M.A. with Distinction in Dissertation, History of Art (2001) Courtauld Institute of Art, London, England B.A. summa cum laude, Art History (hons., Phi Beta Kappa) University of Denver, Denver, Colorado

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