Case Studies

Tour our New Restoration Lab

Preparing Artwork for Shipment

The Art of Conservation and Restoration

Joel Oppenheimer, Inc., a nationally renowned art facility, was founded in 1969 by the conservator for the Department of Prints and Drawings of the Art Institute of Chicago. We provide professional conservation services to artist estates, galleries, museums.

Damaged Caused by Improper Framing

Many antique prints were improperly framed many years ago. Now, it is stained with brown speckling, called foxing, and dark brown vertical lines transferred from the cardboard used to back the frame. Or it could be a silver gelatin photograph that was stored in a basement and damaged by water, a wavy brown tide mark discoloring the paper or canvas. Joel Oppenheimer Inc. can stabilize or effectively reverse damage to artwork caused by improper framing.

Expert Conservation and Restoration Services

We maintain an apprenticeship program and train our own staff, all of whom hold degrees in fine art and art history. Our staff can analyze and perform corrective treatments for anything on paper or canvas. This includes drawings, prints, maps, photographs, documents, paintings and Asian screens. Our laboratories have developed and perfected techniques for restoration of paper, canvas and photographs that enable us to retain delicate pigments, signatures and hand coloring.

With our expertise in both art and science, Joel Oppenheimer, Inc. employs the attention to detail of old world craftsmanship while utilizing state-of-the-art technology. Each piece and problem is treated with singular care. Our clients include major museums that require our particular expertise, smaller museums that do not have their own conservation facilities, galleries, institutions and private collectors nationwide.

Principles of Conservation and Restoration

Tour our laboratories and we will show you examples before, during and after treatments were performed. We are available to answer the frequently asked questions, and  help you to identify the kinds of damage that can occur to paintings, photographs and works on paper. We can also explain what can be done to prevent and remedy damaged artwork. With a broader knowledge of the principles of conservation and restoration, collectors can better preserve and care for their valued works of art and family heirlooms.

What Is the Difference Between Conservation and Restoration?

Conservation is intended to stop any deterioration so that the artwork will remain intact. An example of conservation would be mending a tear using mulberry tissue and a neutral-pH, starch-based adhesive to prevent the tear from enlarging due to the natural expansion and contraction. Another example of conservation would be deacidification, a chemical stabilization process used to neutralize acidity in paper.

Restoration utilizes cosmetic treatments that is intended to return the object to its original appearance while retaining some signs of age. For instance, if a tear has progressed in a manner that detracts from the composition of the piece, we can graft new paper fibers into the tear, rendering it nearly invisible, thus restoring the object. 

Backing a Work of Art on Paper with Mulberry Tissue

First, the work of art is saturated with water allowing the fibers to expand and become receptive to the adhesive. Wheat paste, a neutral-pH, starch-based adhesive, is then applied to the verso of a work of art preparing the sheet to be backed with mulberry tissue.

Then, mulberry tissue is skillfully applied, avoiding the formation of undesirable folds or crimps.

Finally, a stippling process utilizing specially designed boar hair brushes meshes the fibers of the original sheet, which are expanded by introducing moisture, with the fibers of the backing tissue. Thus, a bond is formed allowing the original sheet and backing material to expand and contract together as one sheet when exposed to temperature and humidity changes.