Can This Painting Be Saved?

A tragic event occurred in my studio last week. A well loved painting took a dive off of a display easel resulting in a nasty two inch rip in the center of the canvas. Distraught does not even begin to describe the emotions that engulfed me. Yes, I realize that I shouldn’t get attached to any of my paintings, but this particular work is special as I truly painted out of my heart. And now my ‘heart’ had a major gash, not to mention an even longer scrape next to it. Once my husband was able to talk me down from the ledge I began to research ways to repair painted canvases. There was no time to send it to a professional restorer even if I had the money to pay for such a service. This painting had to be ready to hang in a show in nine days.
I opted to cut a piece of canvas the same size as my painting instead of just doing a smaller patch. At 16″x20″ my canvas is small enough to make this doable. Here is a shot of the rip from the back after flattening it over night with some heavy books. At the art supply store I chose an archival book binding glue. Next I simply glued the canvas piece to the back forcing out any extra glue with a scraper type tool. Then I put the weights (books) back on top and let it dry overnight. For the next step I carefully applied gesso in thin layers. We are talking A LOT of thin layers here. I probably could have done more if I hadn’t been so anxious to get on with finishing the repair. Finally I began to touch in paint, carefully matching colors and blending. At this point the scar was mainly covered, but I could still see that I had used heavier paint there than in the rest of the painting. So to help homogenize the look a bit I added some impasto paint to other areas. As if to say, “Yeah, I meant to do that!”. So, this is it. It’s time to walk away from the painting. What do you think? Here is the before the accident and after the repair.

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Can This Painting Be Saved?

  1. You did a great job. I have had experts repair works in the past and even though I can’t see it clearly it looks pretty good.

  2. It looks great, you can’t see the reair at all.

  3. cousinja

    Looks like you did a great job with the repair Leah. I had a similar experience when we lived in Maryland about a dozen years ago. At the time we had hired a maid service to clean our residence every week. On one occasion I entered the living room to inspect the work after their departure–and was shocked immediately to notice a 4 inch tear in one of my own 6 ft paintings. I surmised it to be at about “vacuum handle” height! Needless to say the cleaning crew knew nothing of this unfortunate occurrence and were, as a consequence, ceremoniously dismissed!!….

    You are correct, in that a common method for this kind of repair is to use a patch of canvas on the back–much like a skin graft; adhered with matte medium or some other archivally sound glue material. i remember temporarily taping the front side of the tear with packing tape first in order to pull the canvas together while keeping it level with books as a support underneath. then applying glue to the back; gesso to the front, sanding in between, etc…
    great to see your art obsession online.
    best, cousinja

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