re-using original window mount

Conservation Issues

re-using original window mount

Postby Mary » Tue Nov 20, 2012 2:35 pm

I've been asked to reframe a rather valuable old watercolour, simple enough job except that the artist signed and titled the window mount which the customer naturally wants to keep in the frame. Not something I've had to deal with before, and I could use some advice. Would it be sufficient to cut a mount of the same dimensions out of museum board to place 'hidden' under the original mount as a buffer, or should I take further steps to isolate the watercolour, maybe using two layers of glass (one each side of the old mount)? Or something else I've not thought of?!
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Re: re-using original window mount

Postby Steve N » Tue Nov 20, 2012 3:08 pm

Your first thought is the one I would go with, second one not a good idea, as you would have to space the glass off the watercolour which is what the mount is for anyway.
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Re: re-using original window mount

Postby Tudor Rose » Tue Nov 20, 2012 4:10 pm

First option is the one we would go with here - as long as they haven't bonded the watercolour to the original mount which is what you are faced with quite often on old pictures.
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Re: re-using original window mount

Postby prospero » Tue Nov 20, 2012 6:33 pm

Does the customer actually want to see the original mount? It may be acidic as heck, but if it's been on the painting all this time the damage (if any) is done.

I have sometimes in these cases put a new mount /backing on and put the old mount in the back of the frame. Behind a suitable barrier. They won't be able to see it, but it will at least be kept with the painting for any possible future examination.
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Re: re-using original window mount

Postby Not your average framer » Tue Nov 20, 2012 11:26 pm

Since you have already stated that the watercolour is fairly valuable, then the future preservation of the watercolour should overide all other consideration, unless the customer decides to instruct you to do otherwise.

Not only that, but the signed mount is part of the history of the piece as well and should also be preserved. I would get a colour laser copying of the original mount and drymount this onto a piece of conservation mountboard and use this to cut a new mount.

As Prosperro has already suggested, the original mount would be best stored in the back of the frame, with a suitable barrier to isolate any acid problems in the original mount from the artwork,
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Re: re-using original window mount

Postby Roboframer » Tue Nov 20, 2012 11:53 pm

In the FATG's GCF study guide this problem is covered and it is deemed acceptable to have a 'museum quality' mount at least 500 microns thick under the old mount, this mount, to offer a bit more protection, could also have a slightly smaller aperture than the old mount - i.e. it would be visible - the bottom mount of a double mount, possibly covering some acid migration from the original mount.

The thinking is that the mount is, or can be deemed, part of the artwork and its provenance - and if the customer really wants to keep it in place then that's the best way to look at it, and when the artwork itself is bonded to straw board with animal skin glue, or otherwise so badly mounted that it would need a conservator to get it back to just a painted piece of paper (and if that's not done) then the nasty top mount; only in contact with the perimeter of the artwork, is less significant.

Mary wrote:should I take further steps to isolate the watercolour, maybe using two layers of glass (one each side of the old mount)?


I don't dislike this idea!

New mount against the artwork, non-UV optically coated glass over that, preferably 'waterwhite' - old mount over that, UV glass (optically coated or not) over that.
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Re: re-using original window mount

Postby stcstc » Wed Nov 21, 2012 1:15 am

Not your average framer wrote: I would get a colour laser copying of the original mount and drymount this onto a piece of conservation mountboard and use this to cut a new mount.


this will fade like a mother F**ker though wont it!!!

photo copies are not designed to last any real amount of time
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Re: re-using original window mount

Postby Mary » Wed Nov 21, 2012 12:58 pm

Thanks so much for all the wisdom. I've now taken it all apart and I'm in over my head: the mount is only attached with paper tape, but the painting itself has been pasted firmly to cardboard and would definitely need separating from it. The painting has suffered a lot, been stored without glass on it and obvious damage around the edges from the nasties in the materials, even has a little hole in one place. But despite this the pigments are fresh looking so it's worth preserving.

Not something I have the skills for though! The same customers also have two oil paintings for cleaning, which I turned down but said I'd help find someone to sort out for them - one needs the varnish stripping and I think the other is unvarnished and just wants a good clean. There seems to be no one in this area that does this sort of thing, hence them looking up artists in the yellow pages and asking me.

If anyone has an interest in taking these on, please get in touch. I have photos and measurements & can give you more info. The artist was one of the Pitmen Painters, out of interest.
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Re: re-using original window mount

Postby prospero » Wed Nov 21, 2012 1:23 pm

Yes... That mount is definitely past it. :?

I've seen lots of watercolours stuck down to the manky board of the era with the good old hide glue. Sometimes they pop off easily, but if it's still stuck firmly it's a job for an expert. The worst ones are those that have detached in localised areas and gone bumpy. Most of the time the owners won't want to cough up for a full restoration. So you have to work with what you have and do your best.

Little holes can sometimes be woodworm. They love the old slat backing typical on older frames. They can sometimes eat though the backboard and take a detour along the painting. I once remounted a very nice old watercolour that had been nibbled. As a compromise I painted the back mounting board behind where the holes were so that they were less noticeable.
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Re: re-using original window mount

Postby Roboframer » Wed Nov 21, 2012 1:29 pm

Roboframer wrote:when the artwork itself is bonded to straw board with animal skin glue, or otherwise so badly mounted that it would need a conservator


Told ya, told ya!
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Re: re-using original window mount

Postby Mary » Wed Nov 21, 2012 2:45 pm

that's what made me take a look! It's terribly sad to see though. I have to sum up the willpower to ring the customers and break the news now :sweating:
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Re: re-using original window mount

Postby Not your average framer » Wed Nov 21, 2012 10:12 pm

stcstc wrote:this will fade like a mother F**ker though wont it!!!


Whatever you do with this has got to be a compromise. I'm assuming that the mount has been signed with pencil, so the main laser pigment for the signature will probably be black. It is true that there are fading problems with the other three pigments, notable the magenta, but I've had various colour lazer printed promotional notices in my shop window throught a whole summer without suffering really serious fading. Sure the fading is there, but it's not to bad if there are not any reds in the copy.

I get quite a lot of sunlight in my shop windows, particularly from mid day onwards, so I already know what to expect and I think that it will last a reasonable amount of time if hung where it will not subjected to excessive light. As compromises go, providing the customer has been made aware of the limitations and since it has no negative effects upon either the artwork, or the original mount, I don't see why it should not be considered as one possible option. I would not have any problem about doing this, if it was the customers informed choice. I also would be happy to tell the customer that if it did not prove satisfactory, then I would replace the mount at no charge.
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Re: re-using original window mount

Postby Not your average framer » Wed Nov 21, 2012 10:29 pm

Having just seen the picture, a skilled conservator would probably be able to fully restore the painting to it's former glory.

The mount is still a serious problem, but you might consider sandwiching the original mount between two other mounts, (the rear mount being fully concealed) and the front mount being cut with small text window(s) to reveal the original title and signature.

Again it's a compromise, but at least it's another possibility to consider.
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Re: re-using original window mount

Postby Mary » Wed Nov 21, 2012 10:58 pm

I spoke to the customers and they took it well. As it seems our nearest restorer is 80 miles away, for now the plan is for me to leave the painting on its backing, place a hidden mount under the existing one and frame it with museum glass so at least they can put it on the wall and the light isn't going to hurt it. I think I'll take your idea NYAF, and see how a top mount with cutouts looks, I reckon it will be smarter. When they get a chance they'll take it to the restorer with their oils to see what can be done with it. I really appreciate all the advice given on this thread, it's enabled me to explain where my expertise ends without looking like I'm not interested, and let them make an informed choice. :yes:
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