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Restore Matting?

Stephen Enggass

True Grumbler
Hi all. I have received from my dad 4 H. Alken prints from the early 1800s. My dad is now 92 and had these in his bedroom as a child. At some point moisture has effected the matting. I would love to re-mat these using the original frame. How would you go about this? Or should I? They are valued at about $1200 each. See pics. They are all in the same condition as the one I am showing.
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Joe B

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
I wouldn't restore the matting, I would replace it. That is a plain paper mat filled with acids and will continue to destroy the art. You may find that the art is glued to the cardboard backing and that the mat is also glued but generally you can remove most of the mat without disturbing the art. Once you have it taken apart we may be able to give you other options but at this time we are just guessing at what you can do.
 

alacrity8

MGF, Master Grumble Framer
The aging on the bevel is so strong that I thought it was a fillet.
I would replace the mat with a fresh mat of similar tone to the original, and add a fillet.
If possible, replace the backer.
Not much that can be done about the condition of the document on the back.
 

Framar

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
Looks to me as though the frames themselves came from the forties or the fifties. They can be restored with Kotton Klenser to their original state. I LOVE those frames!
New mats, subdued and not bright, and solid color, and maybe with a slightly smaller opening measurement, will cover any acid burn lines on the prints.
Prints are probably glued onto thick awful cardboard - even a conservator may not be able to remove them; but Artcare mats up top and Artcare backing will protect them into the next century.
Cut the legend off the crumbling brown backing paper and maybe encapsulate them to keep them intact. They could be restored by a conservator but why bother with that expense?
I would leave the original wavy glass on them - if they have not faded by now they proably won't - just don't hang them in full sunlight.
 

shayla

WOW Framer
They'd look great with new mats, same frame and museum glass. If you ever do have a project that needs saving, paper conservators can often bleach out foxing, water damage, etc... Looking foward to the 'after'.
 

wpfay

Angry Badger
What others have said. Keep the current look as best possible using the best materials..
It would be interesting to see photos of the pieces out of the frames. As Joe mentioned, it was common practice to use hide glue to attach the prints to a chip board backer.
Mar is probably right about the framing. It was common for these kinds of prints, which had little value at the time, to be framed and sold through furniture stores as decor objects.
Shayla mentioned using a paper conservator, which may be needed to help preserve these prints. One point she made I would gently disagree with is
having the pieces bleached. Conservators are shying away from that process because it can compromise the physical integrity of the paper. They are now more accepting of the visual changes and concentrating on stabilizing the print in its current condition, so it won't continue to degrade. They can remove surface dirt, and float wash the work to clean out dirt that has gotten into the fiber of the paper to some extent. They can also safely remove the work if it is glued to the backing as suspected.
 

prospero

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
The prints are maybe hide-glued to a nasty backer, but leave them be. At this point they are restorable,
but if you mess with them you could destroy/damage them forever. The paper will have deteriorated, but
it's 'honest' degradation. A collector would far sooner have them in this condition than newed up.

If you are fortunate, the mats will not be glued on as well. If this is the case you can only slip a steel palette knife
between the mat and backboard (from the outside) and very carefully twist. Work your way round and avoid running
a tear into the visible area of the print.

They are screaming for a nice veneer frame. Birds-eye Maple is the classic. 😜 A Ogee profile would look better. With a nice gold slip.
The square profile is too modern. And as for the red sight-edge............😵
 

Ylva

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
I don’t care much for the frame either, but everyone has a different view.
I’d go with a nice solid rag mat.
Too bad the spacing, white space around, seems off. There will probably be acid burn lines, so you can’t make the opening bigger. Maybe make make the bottom a bit tighter, closer to the text.
 

Framar

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
Oh yeah, the frames do not go with the prints at all. But someone in the mid century thought they were doing a fabulous upgrade. If you do decide to house them in more appropriate frames for the period, let me know - I'll buy one or two of these. I adore mid century modern. ;)
 

neilframer

PFG, Picture Framing God
Oh yeah, the frames do not go with the prints at all. But someone in the mid century thought they were doing a fabulous upgrade. If you do decide to house them in more appropriate frames for the period, let me know - I'll buy one or two of these. I adore mid century modern. ;)
I agree with the comment about the frames.
I also think that the reveal at the bottom is too wide and could be brought up about 1/4" to balance better with the top and sides and by bringing the mat in a bit it will cover any burns from the existing acidic mat.
Most of the water damage seems to be in the original mat and not on the print.
Hopefully, the mat is not glued to the print and it can just get removed and tossed.

I would replace the mat with a new one with either a painted bevel or a fillet to match a new frame.
I would use something like the Roma Tabacchino line distressed veneer moulding.
There are various finishes and profiles available in this line and a number of different widths from 7/8" to 4".

Just one of many mouldings in this line.
Screen Shot 2019-10-12 at 8.15.56 PM.png
 
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Louise B

Grumbler in Training
When you open the frames be careful when lifting the mat because sometimes framers glued the mat to the art, (as mentioned above). With luck it is rabbit skin glue that is more easily removable but you should ask a conservator to do that. Worse would be PVA or double sided tape. Hopefully the mat has not been glued to the print. When you choose a mat board please look at Rising Museum boards. A lot of museum collections use the natural colour on work of this age and it suits the paper well. You can buy it from Talas by the sheet and I see that the online specifier looks acurate colourise:
If you can not find Rising look at the other 100% rag boards that are available from frame material suppliers. And when you make your mat please hinge the mat to a 4 ply backing and hinge the art to the backing, then there is no need to use the dreaded PVA or double sided tape near the art.
 

shayla

WOW Framer
Since these were your dad's, and you said you want to re-use the frames, I guessed there's a sentimental attachment.
Do you have good feelings about seeing them in those frames over the years?
 

Joe B

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
One think you all are forgetting - the frame is more than likely original to the art and should remain with the art, in fact, to use another frame may reduce the value of the art. Just because the art says it was published in 1820 doesn't mean that this art was printed then. I dealt in antique/vintage art for close to 20 years and have had and sold prints identified like this that were printed in the 1930s, 40s, and even later. From the look of this print I would estimate the age somewhere in the neighborhood of the 1930s to early 40s therefore making this frame original to this art. It doesn't matter if you like the frame or not, if it is original to the art it should stay with the art. Actually, that frame works nicely with the art. I have sold hundreds of pieces of antique and vintage art and I would replace the mat and install all back into the original frame. But again, this is just my opinion.
 

prospero

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
One think you all are forgetting -
Good point. I've got a similar engraving in my drawer that is from the 1820's and I think it's probably right. The paper
has darkened so much it looks like a piece of roofing felt. The frame style could be 1920s/30/40s. Although not typical, it does
have the 'Deco' look. The prints condition would tend to confirm this, as would the 'engineering' of the back.
 

tedh

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
One think you all are forgetting - the frame is more than likely original to the art and should remain with the art, in fact, to use another frame may reduce the value of the art. Just because the art says it was published in 1820 doesn't mean that this art was printed then. I dealt in antique/vintage art for close to 20 years and have had and sold prints identified like this that were printed in the 1930s, 40s, and even later. From the look of this print I would estimate the age somewhere in the neighborhood of the 1930s to early 40s therefore making this frame original to this art. It doesn't matter if you like the frame or not, if it is original to the art it should stay with the art. Actually, that frame works nicely with the art. I have sold hundreds of pieces of antique and vintage art and I would replace the mat and install all back into the original frame. But again, this is just my opinion.
I'm with Joe on this one. I've lost business, but gained customers' respect, because I've backed off selling new frames to replace ones which belonged with the artworks.
 

Stephen Enggass

True Grumbler
Thanks all for the valuable input. My intention all along was to reuse the original frames - perhaps being that this is how they were originally framed, but more so as this is the only way I remember seeing them growing up. I personally like the frames. The timeline for framing is likely accurate as my dad was born in 1927 and would have had these in his room in the 1930s-40s. Although who knows when they were actually framed. Thanks for all the tips on what to look out for structurally. I will post an update as soon as I dissect the first one... I'll include pictures as well if it appears interesting.
 

shayla

WOW Framer
Shayla mentioned using a paper conservator, which may be needed to help preserve these prints. One point she made I would gently disagree with is having the pieces bleached. Conservators are shying away from that process because it can compromise the physical integrity of the paper. They are now more accepting of the visual changes and concentrating on stabilizing the print in its current condition, so it won't continue to degrade. They can remove surface dirt, and float wash the work to clean out dirt that has gotten into the fiber of the paper to some extent. ...
Thanks for this comment, Wally. I rarely use a paper conservator, (mostly just refer folks to them), and this is based on what ours told me several years ago. A good reminder to keep up on techniques. :)
 

Stephen Enggass

True Grumbler
So. A picture tells a story... you were all correct. The print is glued to a backing board. Fortunately I was able to easily separate the mat as it was only glued up top. Clearly no conservation mats here. I will slightly reduce size of new mat to overlap burn in. See pics:
757D4D0F-1024-47C4-9A86-04E087CA8A46.jpegCA2E1AFA-BDCA-444F-9132-B7715095E62F.jpeg00BAC30C-5507-4A65-97D9-2A69BE7025BC.jpegEB040085-6860-4A9A-9E89-B26F289A8CE2.jpeg5643E660-4F6B-4BBC-BD42-D94D22E15F2D.jpeg2E1352DA-9D02-4E3A-A72B-1C90710D566E.jpeg4362FB4F-E57F-412C-9780-E3331605D165.jpeg38607D2F-79F0-484E-9D31-FC6CB71A9B6E.jpegDF44D3C4-6634-4737-8490-B88F54112A83.jpeg1B9B15D5-E522-4F49-87D7-5EC866A3F00F.jpeg
Sorry images rotated weird...
 

artfolio

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Well, that was fortunate but don't forget that the others may be mounted differently so still proceed with caution.

If these prints have serious monetary value I agree with previous posters that keeping them in the original frames complete with wavy glass is the best way to go but, of course, replace the matts with something as similar as possible in museum grade materials.

Finally, I would have a conservator at least deacidify the artwork to prevent any further deterioration.

I found two types of customers' attitudes towards old collectable artwork:

Customer 1 was a collector of John Gould prints and he had every one cleaned and restored by my conservator before having them framed.

Customer 2 once came in and saw some of 1's framed prints waiting to be collected and commented on them. During conversation he said that he would regard them as worthless as he preferred his collectables to look as if they had been around the block a time or three.

It would be interesting to see a poll of collectors to find out which view dominates.
 

Stephen Enggass

True Grumbler
Yes. The only thing being replaced is the mat. The glass itself is not actually wavy, just looks that way in the pics. I’m considering replacing with UV glass as I’m sure what is currently there is not.
 

prospero

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
This is a common thing with collectors. 'Original Condition' means warts and all. Anyone buying the item then
has the option to have it restored or not. If it's been messed about with to make it look more attractive then it's
mostly the case where it's not restorable at all. People often polish up statues and slap Sellotape on books which
essentially destroys the value. Same applies to old prints/paintings. Picture restorers frequently have to restore
previous half-hearted restorations which make the job ten times harder. 😕
 

shayla

WOW Framer
Yes. The only thing being replaced is the mat. The glass itself is not actually wavy, just looks that way in the pics. I’m considering replacing with UV glass as I’m sure what is currently there is not.
Replacing the glass will help protect the prints. Whether it's new-fangled or old handmade, the glass on their likely deflects somewhere in the 40% range of UV. Conservation filters around 99%. Anything can still fade over time, but it's hecka better than regular. Some collectors prefer to keep original hand-poured glass, even with its diminished abilities, but I'd be for helping them last longer. I agree with the note about avoiding white mat bevels. We only show them when it adds to the design. Along with the Peterboro mats mentioned, both Crescent and Bainbridge have some great solid core rags, in 'old paper' colors.
 

Stephen Enggass

True Grumbler
So I’m going to re-mat these with UV Glass. As mentioned above, the original prints are adhered to a piece of mat board. The mat(window) was then glued in place on top. When re-doing, I’d like to hinge my mat(window) to backing board with the print t-hinge taped to the backing board. I’m thinking I need to trim down the piece of mat the print is adhered to and then treat that piece as the art itself. Do you follow? That would make it easier to align image within window as opposed to trying to align window with art... hard to explain. How would you approach it?
 

prospero

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
When I do jobs like this I generally trim off the excess ratty board close to the artwork. Then offer it up to the mat
and align it with the window. Carefully apply a few tabs of tape (temporarily) to hold it in place while I flip it face-down.
Then pinwheel strips of scrap matboard around (held with d/s tape) to hold it in place. Theoretically it should stay put
once in the frame but I usually apply a bit of P-90 to secure it. That way it's all level. The matboard scraps should be no
thicker than the artwork board.
 

Stephen Enggass

True Grumbler
Thanks. You lost me here...
>>
Then pinwheel strips of scrap matboard around (held with d/s tape) to hold it in place. Theoretically it should stay put once in the frame but I usually apply a bit of P-90 to secure it. That way it's all level. The matboard scraps should be no
thicker than the artwork board.<<
 

framah

PFG, Picture Framing God
As an aside to removing mats...

If they are glued down, the best thing to do is to get your fingernails under the bevel of the mat at the art and pull away from the art. Just keep doing that all the way around and you won't have the possibility of tearing the art.
After the majority is removed you can do what ever you want to pick at the stuff left over so you have a flat surface.
 

Stephen Enggass

True Grumbler
Thanks. I have the mat (window) removed from top. Was just glued on top edge. Came off easily. The print itself is glued to a mat backing that is full size. I’m wondering how to deal with all of the extra mat around the print.
 

wpfay

Angry Badger
I'll try to explain what Peter said with a visual aid.
IMG_1836.JPG
Build book mat (1 & 4) as per usual but insert a narrow hinge strip (3) only on the hinge (2) side to allow for the thickness of the mounted art (6). This strip should be fixed to the new mount. Position the art as usual, then fill in the space around it with additional strips of mat board (5) to level out the space between the new mount and mat, and to capture the mounted art in a "sink". "Pinwheel" is simply the pattern of the application of these strips of matting.
Done properly, you may not need to use any attachments to hold the old mount in place once the mat is laid over it.
The drawing was a bit rushed as I was attempting to eat lunch at the same time.
 

Ylva

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
I would have picked a more tinted mat. This looks too new and a bit distracting with its new bright look.
A softer gray would have been nicer but I would definitely have chosen a fabric mat with a bit more vintage feel to it.
 

tedh

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
On older pieces we try to maintain the look by matching the mat to the tone of the paper. Another way of agreeing with Ylva.
 

neilframer

PFG, Picture Framing God
On older pieces we try to maintain the look by matching the mat to the tone of the paper. Another way of agreeing with Ylva.
The original mat also has a gold painted bevel.
It looks like an 8 ply.
We paint bevels often or you can use a 4 ply mat, reverse the bevel and add a gold fillet.
 

JFeig

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
I am about to voice an opinion of a museum conservator although I am not one.
Even today in museums there are very few choices of colors to use for "museum mat boards". When I started as well as today, most museums use only 3 colors of mat boards, white, off white, or cream. I know that the mat board manufacturers product more colors today than the three that I have mentioned. What is the goal of the project? Is it to present the 19th Century art as it would have been presented or as a display of contemporary art?
 

Stephen Enggass

True Grumbler
I do not believe the original bevel was painted. On close inspection it appears to be burnt or aged as it was not conservation board. It was definitely thicker than 4 ply, that is why I used 8 ply. Others on this board suggested it be good to go with solid core to avoid an off color core. My intent was to refresh the piece using a board color similar to the original.
 

shayla

WOW Framer
Thanks for sharing the results, Stephen! It sounds like you've done what you were hoping to do. :beer:

I'm glad you kept the original frames, because that's what makes your eyes (and memory) happy. When you have more mat samples to choose from, you'll likely find a solid core that works even better. Aged paper is tricky, because using something much whiter/brighter can make the artwork look dingy. Yet, an exact match to the paper can, at times, look drab. In the last several years, solid core mat offerings in the 'old paper' range have greatly expanded, for which I'm thankful. Looking forward to seeing more of your projects.
 

prospero

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
Bright white bevels do tend to 'shout' on antiquarian prints. I like to gild the bevels (using gilt varnish over an acrylic color)
or rev bev and insert a suitable fillet. 🙂
 
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