Picture Framing and Art Preservation/stains on ink painting


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I have a Chinese ink painting that has brown discolorations throughout the painting ..i dont know if this is acid burn due to acidic backing or a mold can you help me by identiflying the problem and can it be fixed ? thank you

It appears to be a pretty severe case of foxing, as the brown spotty discoloration is known. There are usually two possible causes: Very small specks of iron in the paper which can oxidize (rust) and discolor the paper over time. This iron can be either naturally occurring in the water that was used in the paper manufacturing, or it could come from the machinery used. It could also be caused by mold or mildew.

Considering how extensive it appears to be, I would think that it's a matter of mold. The best course of action would be to take it to a qualified conservator who can assess it, recommend a course of treatment and carry out that treatment. You can find a conservator near you by going to www.conservation-us.org and clicking on the Find a Conservator link on the right.

Regardless of what you decide to do, you really need to get rid of the acidic backing. It may not be the direct cause of the foxing, but it's certainly not helping matters.

UPDATE: I recently attended a major trade show for the industry and the convention for the PPFA, the Professional Picture Framers Association. I took a class from Hugh Phibbs, a very well-known and respected figure in preservation framing who works at the National Gallery of Art in DC.

He told us that nobody really knows what causes foxing. There are a few competing theories but still no definitive answer. Iron was mentioned, but as an agent that causes a disruption in the chemistry of the paper, rather than causing rust. Another thought is that the foxing spots are areas of very localized tide lines.

Although the cause is up in the air, the advice to consult a conservator still holds. Also be aware that the spots could reappear at some point in the future, even with conservation work having been carried out.

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Picture Framing and Art Preservation

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David Lantrip, MCPF, GCF


I can answer questions about all aspects of framing, with special emphasis on preservation framing. Categories of artwork include works of art on paper, needlework, textiles, paintings on canvas and three-dimensional objects. Components of framing includes frames, glass/glazing, mats, mounting, their features and how to select them.


I have been a professional picture framer and educator in the field since 1994, including framing education for a major franchisor encompassing three brands and the Professional Picture Framers Association, and writing and teaching for DECOR Magazine.

Professional Picture Framers Association (PPFA) > Board member, PPFA > Member, Certification Board > Member, Chapter relations Committee National Society, Sons of the American Revolution (NSSAR)

DECOR Magazine, 2005 - 2010 PPFA For Members Only newsletter Member of the PPFA Guidelines task force, assisted in writing PPFA Guidelines for Framing Works of Art on Paper and PPFA Guidelines for Framing Works of Art on Canvas, and PPFA Guidelines for Framing Textiles and Needlework. Picture Framing Magazine, 2012

Georgia State University, many classes as a student and educator through the Professional Picture Framers Association and DECOR Magazine. Current member of the PPFA guidelines task force and certification board.

Awards and Honors
Earned Certified Picture Framer (CPF) designation in 1996, Master Certified Picture Framer (MCPF) designation in 2004 and Guild Commended Framer (GCF) status in 2008.

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