Canvas Damage

Canvas damage and re-lining

Some oil paintings have been slow roasted over fireplaces, and others abandoned in dark damp cellars. Several have been attacked with knives, or even, acid, by people with grudges, or political points to make.

This 6 foot by 3 foot torn oil painting arrived to us held together with sellotape.


All these, and countless other paintings would be in need of a re-line, if it's a canvas, or cradling, if it's a wooden panel.

Re-Lining - Considerations

Before relining, any loose paint will be consolidated. Then as much cleaning as possible will be performed, relative to the condition.

Occasionally we receive paintings that have the accumulated dirt and old varnish baked into their surface pigment by the heat of 'amateur' relining - this is not good news!!

We have experts, specialising solely in lining and cradling techniques, with generations of experience, qualified to select the right kind of consolidation procedure suitable for any deteriorating or damaged painting. Most importantly, they proceed according to the specific requirements of every individual work, because every painting is unique in some way. This is critical, as paintings can be completely ruined and devalued in inexperienced hands, by flattening the original impasto of the artist’s brushwork during the lining process.

Large holes or missing fragments are implanted with matching canvas during the lining process.


Lining techniques we use

Wax Lining

Of the two techniques we tend to favour, Wax Lining is considered the more traditional. We find its strength is in dealing with paintings extensively damaged with perhaps a bad tear, or large hole. It is basically the thicker and heavier alternative, and its resilience therefore provides greater leeway in repairing what is a virtual ‘trauma’ to the canvas. Some of the Old Master’s were painted on very coarsely woven ‘canvases’, and a strong relining might be considered necessary in ‘evening out’ the distortions that sometimes occur.

Beva Lining

Beva Lining is a more recent development. General opinion is, that it is more sensitive to the impasto of the artist’s original brushstrokes. It is thinner and lighter in weight, compared to the wax option. In the Trade, the reverse of a picture is considered important, and the cleaner, crisper finish of a beva backed canvas, is perhaps more aesthetically appealing. It is these qualities that tend to make it a popular choice of many Modern Galleries for both Victorian and Contemporary oil paintings.

Beva lining is marginally more expensive, however, from the front, even an expert will have difficulty in distinguishing the quality or difference between our professionally re-lined paintings by either process.

Strip Lining - Considerations

1. Sometimes a canvas can appear misshapen by waves or wrinkles. An irregular shaped stretcher where the canvas cannot be keyed out evenly can cause this. The solution to this problem could be simply could be to re cut or replace the stretcher.

2. Another cause could be that the canvas has deteriorated around its edges for some reason, and become detatched from the restraining tacks. One could apply a STRIP LINING around one or more of the edges of the canvas and restretch it. This solution has the advantage of the STRIP LINE being discreetly hidden behind the back of the stretcher and leaving the original reverse of the canvas clean!

3. Finally the canvas may have an important inscription, signature, stamp or emboss seal close to the reverse. A STRIP LINE would help conserve important information. If this is not possible, inscriptions can be documented, copied to acetate and transfered back to the reverse.

If a canvas is particularly dry and rigid it will probably require re-lining to stabilise it and flatten out.

4. Transparent Lining: can be applied to reveal the back of the old canvas and any important inscriptions etc.

Wax/Beva Patches - Considerations

Small holes can usually be fixed by the application of patches to the reverse of the canvas. The success of this method is dependent on several variables.

1. The 'Value' (market/sentimental) of the picture does not merit the cost of a full reline. Small patches are a much cheaper option.

2. With thin weave canvasses (particuarly those currently being imported from the Far East) 'can bulge' and show the shape of the patch through the front of the picture.

3. Patches cannot be guaranteed to last as long as a reline.


Perhaps the most extreme re-lining restoration we have undertaken was an exceptionally large Edgar Hunt painting that hung in the foyer of a famous Belfast hotel, where it fell victim to a bomb blast and 'shreaded' by hundreds of glass shards. The damage was extreme and took months of painstaking work to bring it back to it's original condition.