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Conservation > Paintings & Calligraphy

Summary

Traditionally, Korean paintings and calligraphic works were created by brushwork with ink, pigments and dyes on materials such as paper and fabrics. Koreans have mounted the paintings and calligraphic works in the format of hanging scrolls, handscrolls, screens, albums, books, and boards in order to better preserve, store and appreciate them. However, over time, the materials tend to undergo physical damage such as tearing and cracking, as well as chemical damage like discoloration, de-coloration and browning, and even biological damage from insect excrements, pests and fungi. The restoration process for damaged or disfigured artworks varies depending on their constituent materials, type of damage, and mounting method among other factors.

Types of damage found on paintings and calligraphy

Physical damage

Physical damage

Physical damage

Physical damage such as bending, splitting and tearing, etc. occurs as the support materials like paper and fabrics age and weaken. Such damage can be aggravated by inappropriate handling during exhibition and storage. Secondary damages may also occur due to prior repairs such as lining, filling, inpainting, and so on, performed inappropriately on the works.

Chemical damage

Chemical damage

Chemical damage

Materials used as support may undergo oxidation, browning or discoloration due to ultraviolet rays, air pollution, changes in temperature and humidity levels, etc. The paint layer may also darkened due to chemical reactions of pigments.

Biological damage

Biological damage

Biological damage

In hot and humid environments, harmful insects may gnaw at paintings and calligraphic works, resulting in losses. Insect excrements on the surface of paintings and calligraphic works may also cause oxidation or discoloration of the support and paint layer. Also, fungi that may grow under humid conditions can cause serious damage to artworks.

Conservation treatments

Cleaning

Cleaning

Cleaning

Cleaning is the most basic and foremost process in conservation treatment. Cleaning is performed to remove any contaminants such as foreign matter and dust as well as stains. Cleaning methods include dry cleaning and wet cleaning, which are executed separately or in combination depending on the material of the support, characteristics of the paint layer, and types of contaminants and stains.

Loss compensation

Loss compensation

Loss compensation

Paper or fabric used as inserts for loss compensation is selected or specially manufactured so as to match the adjacent original materials. Furthermore, the filling material is artificially aged to simulate the extent of degradation of the support. This is a measure required to obtain compatibility and homogeneity amid the original materials and the newly added materials.

Lining

Lining

Lining

Lining is performed on paintings and calligraphic works executed on paper or fabrics that are prone to damage. It is performed to stabilize the artworks or to facilitate handling and storing, and to allow viewers to better appreciate the works. Lining involves adhering several sheets of paper onto the back of the painting or calligraphic work. The number and type of lining paper may vary depending on the form of mounting (scroll, folding screen, roll, etc.). For instance, works that are stored in a rolled form such as a hanging scroll and handscroll, are lined with paper containing calcium carbonate to minimize the possible formation of creases during rolling and unrolling.