Restoring my childhood image
December 31, 2017 5:59 PM   Subscribe

Is it even possible to restore the paper a portrait in charcoal and white highlights was drawn on in 1960?

When I was almost 6 my mother had a chalk and charcoal portrait drawn of me. I remember it well, because she had two done, one for each set of grandparents and it took foreeeeever to my five year old self, trapped in my first grade uniform and having to SIT STILL! Now the drawing seems intact, having reverted to my dad when his parents died, but the paper has yellowed terribly.

It's in an awful 60's frame and hasn't been touched since the day it was framed. I am quite sure the department store artist didn't use acid-free paper, or it wouldn't look now so close to yellowed newsprint - but I also doubt the artist deliberately used cheap paper. It was probably some medium grade charcoal paper, framed poorly. Is it possible to revive this deteriorating drawing? I would love to save it for my own kids.

How does one go about finding a paper restorer? I am in Philadelphia, with loads of first-rate museums, but do I make a cold call to an art museum? Is this something a good framer can advise me on? If you know, please suggest someplace for me to begin to find a competent conservator.
posted by citygirl to Media & Arts (4 answers total)
I would suggest getting someone to scan it, restore it and print it on high quality acid free archival paper.
posted by starlybri at 7:20 PM on December 31, 2017 [3 favorites]

I live in the SF Bay Area and I was able to find a private art conservator locally - try to google it or use yelp (or both). Check for art restoration or art conservation.
posted by metahawk at 7:37 PM on December 31, 2017

Many charcoal drawings are fixed with some sort of varnish, which can also cause the paper to yellow. Also, cigarette smoke can yellow paper over time.

The most that can be done for charcoals and pastels to preserve them is to provide some sort of rigid backing like museum board and reframe them under uv glass.
posted by effluvia at 8:59 PM on December 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

Consider a few options. You might get a digital image made of the portrait and have an artist try to restore that, either in charcoal and chalk, or as a digital image. Or two artists, one doing each.

Before you turn the original over to someone to work on it, make copies in case the original gets changed.
posted by Jane the Brown at 8:40 AM on January 2, 2018

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