Midas touch

Terry Hart cpf

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Sep 23, 2003
Excelsior, MN
Thought I'd see what you all think of these. They are small, about 9"x9" frame size. The paintings are acrylic. The frames and backrounds are 16kt & 23kt respectively. The paints used are traditional gesso and casien. All are sealed with shellac. The art is backed with a piece of 4ply rag slightly smaller than the art. I wonder whether or not any conservators out there would have any problems with this sort of housing? Terry

I like them.

What part do you think a conservator would have a problem with?

Why was shellac used rather than a something made specifically for paintings?
Thanks Jo, I don't see any problem with the materials myself but I would like to sell this type of mount as top quality and archival and I think maybe the materials I used are a little unconventional at least in the context of a float mount backround and so am wondering what a conservators take on this would be. Shellac is commonly used as a sealer in many gilding applications and as far as I know is inert and safe to use (not in direct contact with the work of course). Terry
Hi Terry,

The shellac is on the gessoed and giled frame, not the painting? I know shellac yellows, so some changes are going on in there - not sure if these would affect the paint. To be on the safe side you might change to an acrylic resin varnish (again, talking frame, not painting)such as Acryloid B72 in xylene. Xylene is nasty stuff so you'd need good ventilation. Or, as Jo suggests, some proprietary varnish made for paintings.

Re the painting (on paper?) mounted to the 4-ply, my question would be, what have you mounted it with, and how.

Looks very nice BTW


What are the paintings painted on? I can't tell from your writing, but it seems to me they need to be painted on a board made specifically for paintings that don't require glass.

Shellac on the frame is fine, on the art is a no-no, but that may be exactly what you are saying. You have to really spell it out for me, or I won't get it.

Whatever, I still like them!
Thanks for the input, just the sort I'm looking for. The shellac is fairly key in the proper toneing so that the frame and the backing that the painting is floated on are the same tone. Would you feel comfortable with the use of shellac on the backround if it were sealed with a coat of acrylic resin varnish like Winsor Newton Conserve-Art or simillar product (an acrylic resin in a solvent base)? Or do you feel shellac needs to be eliminated from the float backround entirely? I would like to make this safe enough for works on paper. The paintings in the posting happen to be my own work. They were done on paper but in one of those flashes of inspiration(?) I soaked and peeled away the paper leaving only the paint film. They are varnished with WN Conserve-Art and hinge mounted to 4ply rag useing mulberry paper hinges and methylcellulose paste. I should probably mention that the painted and gilded backrounds are done on masonite. Would you suggest a more suitable material? Or are you ok with masonite as long as it is well sealed? Thanks so much for your comments. Terry
Hi Terry,

I don't think there is a definative "Yes this is all 100% archivally correct" answer here (or ever), but I do think you're on the right track.

Masonite and shellac aren't the first choice for "Conservation Framing", but since you're not laying the art directly against them, the masonite is buried under gesso, and this is not a closed framing system, I think you're ok.

In a closed framing system I'd worry a bit about the masonite, but not being a woodworker, have no good alternative to offer. I'm sure Hugh or others will have very good additional ideas on this, and think of something I haven't.

What you need to think about is the consequences of what you are doing 50 years down the road.

The prob with shellac is that it turns yellow or amber, which is great for toning a frame, but could it be removed from a painting with out destroying the painting?

Could something as common as nicotine be removed from the painting without harming the painting?

I don't know the answer, but I suspect that a conservator somewhere is shuddering at the thought of having to clean a painting on paper that has been exposed to the environment.
Jo, if understand what Terry is saying, the shellac is only on the frame and masonite, not the paint of the art. And that he has removed the paper from the reverse of the painting, only leaving the paint (and probably some paper fibers impregnated with paint).

So the piece is more or less a varnished acrylic painting with an unconventional support. Could be worse.

Conservators tend to cut artists a fair amount of slack when it comes to the choice of materials. They're working towards an aesthetic vision that may require unconventional or experimental materials and methods.

Framar will remember the "meat dress" controversy in Canada a few years back. Yech. Wouldn't want to be the conservator there.

That's right Rebecca, the painting itself is varnished with an acrylic resin varnish WN Conserve-Art. They are however glazed (with museum glass)if this is what you mean by a "closed" system (as opposed to "sealed"?). I don't neccesarily like glass on these but it was required for an exibition. I really think this would be a great looking housing for many items from works on paper to textile to objects so I'm aiming to make it as safe an enviornment as possible.
Framer and artist... must be some sort of split personality disorder

Thanks for your insights, Jeckyll & Hyde

(Or should I say Mr. Hyde ;) ), yes, by closed system I meant glazing.

If they are glazed, I'd put use Artcare behind the masonite, and also behind the art. Acrylic is pretty stable, but to be on the safe side Artcare's zeolites should capture any unwanted emissions from the masonite or shellac.

Re textiles or art on paper, I'm not so sure how conservationally correct it would be. As Jo says, an open system would leave the mounted objects pretty exposed and vulnerable, while a closed system could result in "undesirable emission build-up". (Nice phrase, eh?)

So if it were you, you would probably not accept it even with artcare behind it? Which reminds me of a question I've had. What happens when these zeolites become saturated? Do they start releaseing gunk? Maybe I can come up with another material. There is a company called Ampersand Art Supplies that makes prepared panels that they claim the hardboard itself is ph neutral and acid free but I don't have any of their data on hand. Terry
That sounds like a really good idea Terry. There are also plywoods that are made without nasty formaldehyde emitting adhesives. Just make sure to seal the ungessoed bits with waterbased urethane and put an Artcare backing board on. This would be to take care of any emissions from the wood.

If you did that, and used the Artcare matboard behind the artwork just in case of any shellac oddities, I'd be comfortable with your displaying the textile and paper art in there.

You should also run this by Hugh, as he may have ideas about this too.

I wondered about the xeolites filling up too. It would be very hard to say how long it would take to "use up" the xeolites, as each environment is different, but I think the usual 10 - 20 yr lifespan of a normal framing job would be pretty safe. Too bad there's not a built in color indicator!

I think there was a discussion here about outgassing from filled up xeolites and I'm pretty sure that they don't. When they're full, they're full, but they don't release. Again, Hugh probably has some hard data on this.

Well, thanks again. Now that I feel prepared I hope that I really can sell some customers on the idea. I really love the look but it's hard to say how it will go over. Sometimes it seems my tastes are a little different. Hard to believe I know. Then to there's the price, it ain't that cheap but we do have some collecters around here that can afford it if they like it enough. It's been a good conversation though and very enlightening. Terry