I will be framing a few paintings for a local exhibition next month. I usually frame under glass. There are a few reasons why. The first is that glass is more popular. The air quality in modern homes is much different from what it was, even a few decades ago. Cleaning a dirty oil painting is a difficult job and I think ‘glass-less’ oils earned a bad reputation in the dirty air era. Open fires and cigarette smoking were the worst causes of grime on paintings. I know, I’ve cleaned enough of them. Its different now, even still, there is a fear of oil paintings developing a layer of dirt which has to be removed by a specialist. Another reason is the recommended 6 months a painting has to be left to dry before it can be varnished.
So I will frame under glass. What I will do is make sure the paintings are ‘oiled out’ a few weeks before the exhibition. The oil will be hard to the touch, even though the experts tell us that the under layers are wet and still absorbing oxygen in the process of drying. The ‘oiling out’ process will create a gloss. This is OK for many paintings, but if you would prefer a matt or satin finish, a very light spray with aerosol temporary varnish will be sufficient, as it is only ‘dulling’ the gloss and not required to protect the surface under the glass.
Another ‘dulling’ process I use is a little more awkward. I dissolve a little pure paraffin wax in white spirits (pure beeswax can also be used). This is done by chopping up the wax and dropping it into a small bottle of the spirits. Very little will be dissolved and it will take a few hours a bit of shaking the bottle to get it to happen. If this solution is applied to the surface of the painting and allowed to dry, a very thin layer of wax is left on the surface. This can be brushed to a satin finish. Again it is a very thin layer of a very soft material but as the painting is under glass its OK. Be careful with the wax. Candle wax and other waxes, like beeswax, might have chemicals or contaminants and best to be avoided. Just make sure its ‘pure’ wax.
Its worth remembering that a painting kept clean under glass can at any time in the future be varnished and re-framed without glass. So the ‘glass’ option can be both a temporary or a permanent solution at the same time. Here is the video of the last painting. See you soon.