The cleaning of paintings often involves two processes, surface grime removal and varnish removal. Surface grime can be described as the accumulation of particulates from the air or by contact. For example, common dust, nicotine, cooking grease and finger marks, can all collect on the surface of artwork and diminish its appearance. Alternatively, varnish is typically applied by the artist for several reasons such as to heighten, colour saturation, alteration of gloss and protection of the paint surface. Over time, varnishes tend to discolour depending on the type of varnish and its environment.

Portrait of Eliza Hudson, unknown artist

oil on canvas
Client: Greenwood Historical Society, Hudson, Quebec

Patrick Legris cleaning an artwork

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For the Canadian War Museum, Ottawa, Ontario

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