Buying a Watercolor:
What to Ask the Artist or Gallery about Permanency
Permanency of Watercolor:
So, buying a watercolor? Is this a wise choice? Is watercolor a permanent medium? How should the painting be protected? What questions should I ask the artist or the gallery?
History of Watercolor:
Albrecht Durer’s The Hare, created in 1502 is still on exhibit in Vienna. Durer lived during Germany’s Renaissance. Because of careful preservation, this painting has survived over five hundred years. Given good care, permanency is no more of a problem with watercolor than oil or other mediums.
China traces its invention of paper to the Han Dynasty around 100 A.D. Egypt developed paper using the pulp of the papyrus plant about 5,000 years ago. For example, hand-made paper of 100% cotton rag has been used in watercolor in western art for centuries. Brands like d’Arches, Fabriano, Stonehenge and others use techniques developed in the Middle Ages develop hand-made and long lasting products. I use d’Arches, made by the same method as when it began in 1492. This paper is non-acidic, unlike paper made from wood pulp.
Paint and Permanency:
Black or colored inks were used by Chinese and Japanese painters on silk or rice paper. Egyptian painters used water based paints on the walls of temples and tombs. Similarly, the early cave painters of Lascaux and Altamira used water based paints on the walls of caves in France and Spain. These paintings are all in existence today.
Today’s commercial brands have ratings for permanency and color fastness. Questions for the artist or gallery (if they know): what type of paper was used and are the paints considered color fast?
Enhancing Conservation in Framing:
Seek a professional framer. Your painting should be matted in a 100% acid free mat, using linen T-hinges at the top. Go with acid free backing material as well. You should also use regular UV glass, not non-glare. Above all, hang the watercolor where constant sunlight will not cause fading.
Thoughts or questions on permanency? Please comment.