Mechanical alteration of the paint film

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Publication Type:

Journal Article


Keck, Sheldon;


Studies in conservation, Volume 14, Number 1, p.9-30 (1969)


conservation, paints


Deterioration of paintings is effected by chemical, physical and biological agents. Activity of these agents generates mechanical stresses which result in cracking, cupping, cleavage and flaking of the paint film. Internal mechanical stress appears to be primarily responsible for premature or drying cracks in paint. Stresses external to the paint cause age cracks which penetrate both paint and ground. The literature explaining the origin and characteristics of these cracks is reviewed. Although premature cracking can only be avoided by instructing the artist in proper use of materials, age or mechanical cracking can presently be prevented by environmental controls and careful handling. Present methods of reinforcement of paintings in general only partially stabilize them against environmentally generated stresses. Further research appears necessary for more complete understanding of the stresses old paint can withstand and of the forces exerted by the shrinking and swelling of textile and wooden supports. Search for and testing of more physically and chemically inert support materials are suggested.