The painting is cracking on my painting!

"Which causes cracking in oil painting which is often in ancient paintings?" is one of the most common questions I am asked.

This phenomenon of small cracks in the oil painting is known as cracking and is usually caused by the drying time and environmental conditions which has been the subject of art.

It is not in the 20th century with our current heat and air conditioning methods that have enabled us to live in a fairly constant indoor temperature and humidity. Prior to this, households were the most common method of heating a home and an open window was the way to cool. This fluctuation in the environment puts stress on a work of art. Painting in oil and the media, either the canvas or wood, actually expands and contracts.

Another factor is that artists create generally paints oil by the superimposition of the colors. This layering process means that the paint has different drying times. Also, this is 1841 that paints were available to the artist in metal tubes. Prior to this, the artists had grind pigments and mix them oil which meant that oil to pigment ratio was not necessarily consistent color from one to the other, which also affected the drying time.

Now, think of these as similar layers to the tectonic plates of the Earth. These plates are always expanding and contracting according to stress that he meets. This movement over the centuries have caused mountains to be formed, and earthquakes to wreck havoc. This is what happens to the layers of paint, but instead of an "earthquake of painting", you see a maze of cracks in the paint. These cracks may appear on the whole painting or only in a localized area. It is just a natural process of ancient paintings.

The value of art is not affected by cracking unless it is very serious, with large cracks and loss of the paint. Restore can usually address a serious problem. Most of the time, cracking stabilizes when art is in a modern house or business.

If cracked paint field has a centre and expands out like a spider's Web, then the canvas suffered trauma such as being hit or Redlight. The canvas that many not have been perforated, but over a period of time that the stress of the evolution of the environment will expose the hidden damage. A good conservator can help to stabilize and support this area.

Enjoy your ancient painting and the history it represents!

Melanie Smith is one of the owners of Seaside Art Gallery, which has been established since 1961. She is a member accredited international society of appraisers specializing in fine arts and the art of animation.

Seaside Art Gallery specializes in original works of art. You can consult them by head bothering, NC or on their Web site at

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