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Fine Art/Cleaning of Oil paintings



I have recently bought three oil on canvas paintings from a antiques dealer. The Paintings come from an old church that was demolished. Due to their age and years of neglect they are not in a good condition. I need some guidance on how to clean them and stop their deterioration. I would like to send you some fotos if possible. I will apreciate any advise that you can offer


Floris van der Walt

Dear Floris, I have been an art dealer for 33 years, bought and sold thousands of paintings, and I do not clean paintings. This is a very specialized skill. It requires a complete knowledge of the types of canvas, panels, stretcher bars, how the paint was originally applied, if there is a ground under the pigments, the stability of the paint surface, the type of craquelure, and experience with various solvents and cleaning materials, etc.
Early on it was suggested to me that I clean a painting with a particular solvent. I cleaned the painting, it looked great, and I leaned it against the wall. The next morning the paint had crumbled and was lying in a pile on the floor. That was a $3,000 lesson for me.
You need to find a painting conservator. They do not charge to examine your painting, explain the condition, what needs to be done, and what it would cost. How to find a conservator ? I would not ask any museum personel, as they often recommend the most expensive (who is not neccesarily the best). Call a couple of art dealers (galleries), and ask who they use. Since dealers use painting conservators frequently, they need one who is good and reasonably priced.

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Daniel A. Hynes


Collecting, buying, selling, identifying, and caring for paintings, drawings,and watercolors (19th and early 20th century American and European). No prints, contemporary art, or works executed after 1940.


35 years as a fine art dealer, including 3 years as a gallery director. Also was art expert for Leslie Hindman's Auctioneers, and for Dunning's Auction.

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