View Full Version : Pastel Restoration

12-11-2013, 02:51 PM
Recently I've been asked to clean up and reframe a number of pastel portraits (I'm a professional framer as well as a pastelist) and the paper is showing some foxing. The pastels were done in the late 60's - it looks like Canson or possibly some other laid paper. They were not taken care of but are still beautiful pastel portraits. Although I've been pastelling for at least 40 years I've never had the problem myself but of course I've taken good care of mine. Anyway, I've been doing research on what methods might be available to remove foxing and the methods are too wet for pastels. One website mentions using a laser which seems like the least destructive and least damaging type of treatment, but I don't know if that is widely available. Not to mention expensive - my customer has no money - of course.

My main goal is to put all of the paintings in the right environment with acid free backings and mats, then recommend what else can be done. At least this should stop further damage, however, I keep wondering if there might be something, like a fungicide, that I could spray on the backing board that will help reduce the foxing.

Does anyone know what might be done?

Deborah Secor
12-11-2013, 08:42 PM
Doreen, I did the obvious and Googled this problem. Maybe you found this link (http://www.picturerestorationscotland.co.uk/restoring_worksonpaper.html), which offers no real information BUT you might contact them and see if they can help. They show a restored pastel that had mold... There must be a way to do this!

12-11-2013, 08:53 PM
I don't work with pastels, but research is my "thing". I found something that may be helpful on the Artistsnetwork. http://www.artistsnetwork.com/medium/pastel/pastel-qa-fixing-a-moldy-pastel
Basically scrape off the mold, set outside in fresh air and direct sun for a while, then repaint the scraped areas.

12-12-2013, 10:18 AM
Thanks Deborah and GardenM - I'll check those links out!

12-24-2013, 10:22 AM
I remember reading something about using a gas to reverse foxing. I did a search and came up with the following link, which talks about it. (Search on the word "gas" in the document.) Good luck!


12-24-2013, 05:41 PM
Thank you - that is a great link, as they all are, and packed with information!

I've taken three out of their frames and found that they are mounted on either illustration board or mat board - all very acidic. I won't be able to isolate the paper and put new acid free backing on them. Also, the foxing could be caused by what ever glue was used to mount the paper. It seems there's no end to the possible causes of foxing. There are some crystals that can be used inside a vapor box (I'd have to make a box out of foam core or something) that would sort of gas the foxing out, but before I do anything drastic, I'll try the always available sunshine here in FL.:)

12-26-2013, 03:49 PM
this is a very interesting thread, please keep posting when you find out more!

i wonder, if you spray the back of the backings with that stuff that makes stuff acid free? might help a bit, but mostly, this is a HUGE lesson on how/why to frame properly! any photos to show on this project?

12-26-2013, 06:06 PM
Thanks chewie - I'm a little afraid to introduce anything wet to the pieces. I will post pix after I've taken the other two out of their frames. It seems that the most damage might be from just not taking care of them. Two paintings didn't have any glass on them, one that is still framed looks like it was being stored under a leaky pipe, and others seem to have been on a wet floor maybe - probably all in a damp basement or something. So, first they were poorly framed, but that was the standard in the '60's and second they were not taken care of. :(

12-27-2013, 05:39 AM
Doreen, this is interesting, so please keep us updated as you go, if you have the time.

Seems like pastels are really hard to restore once they're damaged. A bad canvas can be peeled off an oilpainting, but what to do with bad paper with colourful dust on it...?

Some think pastel artists obsess too much about archival and acid free. In my opinion, your adventure, Doreen, illustrates perfectly why a bit of obsession from the beginning will save a lot of problems 60 years later.

12-27-2013, 05:57 AM
Elizabeth Steele has done conservation work on Degas pastels. I can't find the article where she talks about the process, but I remember the biggest problem was with the paper, and she *may* have used something wet on it. (I googled, but couldn't find it quick enough. I have read it online, so it is out there somewhere.)

12-27-2013, 10:05 AM
Thanks Charlie, I'll search for that - but yes - we must be mindful of how we frame and store pastels!