Two paintings, separated by a common canvas
July 23, 2011 3:28 AM   Subscribe

After discovering a second painting on the back of a treasured watercolor, how can I display them both?

I have a watercolor painting done by one of my husband's family members whose work we really enjoy. The glass in the frame cracked during a move and we discovered, lo-and-behold, a second painting on the backside of the first that was completely unknown for the 30-40 years since it was painted.

The painting is done on some sort of watercolor paper, about 1/16" thick. The artist used the texture of the paper to provide depth and interest to the painting.

Is there any way I can separate them or duplicate one for a separate display without losing too much of the original? Is a double-sided picture frame the best solution?

I'd love to hear any ideas or creative solutions on simultaneously displaying both works, as the artist has since passed away.

Bonus points for a solution that would allow me to send high-res or high-fidelity images or prints to our extended family.
posted by bookdragoness to Media & Arts (3 answers total)
Cut a hole in your (non-load bearing) wall about 1ft bigger around than the picture. Finish off the hole with nice woodwork as if you were framing a window.

Put picture hangers on the sides of the frame, secure with wire in your new finished off cut out. I would suggest securing it top & bottom to keep it from swinging or being knocked around. You might be able to engineer something that would allow you to turn the picture but the less you handle it, the better.

I've also seen a double sided poster mounted with a swing hinge on one side so each side would be revealed separately. (think of the swinging door of a bar room or a shutter.) Again, unless you're 100% sure the frame is very sturdy, I wouldn't recommend that much handling.
posted by jaimystery at 4:49 AM on July 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Hmm, I was thinking more along the lines of some form of scanning could be detailed enough to replicate the fine detail, but you certainly get points for creativity! I'll keep that method in mind for when we move into a house.
posted by bookdragoness at 5:07 AM on July 23, 2011

There is no way to separate them without risking destroying both.

Scanning and reprinting is an excellent strategy. The reprint will not be as nice, however, that's only when you compare the original to the print, side by side. The reprint will be 98% the same--and once it's under glass as well it will be 99.5% the same.

Here's what you do: find a printing services bureau in your area. Go with a nice one (not a "AlphaGraphics" sort of place). Look for the ones that do high end work. You need a high res scan and a inkjet print on watercolor paper (yes that's right--you can create a reproduction that even matches the paper of the original!).

Just spend the money. You'll be glad you did for decades.

That said, if you're a do-it-yourself kinda person, you could also use this excuse to buy a nice scanner and a *really* nice Epson printer that handles watercolor paper (expect to spend around $600 at least--what you really need is a 3800, which is around $1500--this is the reason I recommend using a service bureau).
posted by Murray M at 5:26 AM on July 23, 2011

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