Protecting Works of Art

Light is the source of all our visual pleasures in art. It is an unpleasant fact of life that the very act of seeing a work of art in all its colours is in fact dangerous for it – all display causes damage! Humidity and light can damage artwork resulting in fading, discoloration and a general deterioration of the materials themselves.

Technology has improved over the years and it is important that the producers of works of art use quality materials that are most appropriate to that particular product.

Light is the main factor, which is threatening to the preservation of prints and watercolours. Most deterioration from light can be attributed to the ultra violet rays. It is most important to limit the amount of light an object receives while on display. They should not be exposed to direct sunlight even with UV filtering.

After exposure to light a chemical reaction starts to take place. The result can be so subtle that the change is almost unnoticeable unless compared with a perfect sample. The change can however be quite dramatic and distressing. Any damage is serious and irreversible; no conservation treatment can restore colour or strength to light-damaged materials. It is therefore important to bear the following in mind whenever you are displaying art works: -

  • Damage from light is cumulative and irreversible
  • The rate and amount of damage depends on both the quantity and quality of the light falling on the artwork.
  • All light sources, whether natural or artificial, have some of their components in the ultra violet range.

It is important to remember that with careful framing and display it is possible to minimise the risks and consequently the damage and to really enjoy your works for years to come.