Treating a Franz Kline

(Above) Close-up of painting by Franz Kline

Recently treated at The Center, a Franz Kline masterpiece; a white field with broad, black, very expressive brush strokes.

The painting came to the our conservation studios because of concern for the stability of the paint layer in particular areas. The primary concern was tiny (in comparison with the 62 ¼” x 80 ¾” size of the painting) delaminations of black “drips” from the white paint.

It was very important to stop the process of delamination before the condition worsened. Due to the size of the painting, as well as the concern for preserving the original mount and materials, it was decided that it would not be advisable to remove the painting from the floating frame, or the backing. In addition, the painting was not held in any horizontal position to avoid unnecessary stress to the canvas.

For the most part, the treatment plan was straightforward: to introduce adhesive into the delamination area and apply pressure. However, there were several factors that made the process complicated. First, the paint layer is sensitive to water making it difficult to remove any residue that might occur with the application of the adhesive. Also, when applying adhesive it is common practice to introduce heat to facilitate the drying process. However, there was a chance that the introduction of heat could cause the canvas to expand resulting in further damage. Lastly, it was impossible to place any weight on the canvas.

(Above) Detail: Example of delaminated area

The treatment resolution involved the following steps: To introduce the adhesive, a micro spatula was used to avoid leaving any residue on the surface of the painting. For this purpose, the amount of adhesive used was equal to the size of a mustard seed. Then slowly, because the paint layer was slightly resistant, pressure was applied to the paint using a silicon tip tool. It took approximately 5-10 minutes for the paint layer to soften enough to make it possible to press it back into its original position. Then with the silicon tip tool, pressure was applied and held until it was evident that the paint layer had adhered well to the canvas. This procedure was repeated for the other delaminated areas as well. Lastly, the entire surface was dusted using a specialized vacuum and soft brush.