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Hanging and Lighting a Painting

Hanging and Lighting a Painting

(Peter Spirer/Dreamstime)

By Friday, 16 September 2016 02:48 PM Current | Bio | Archive

A fine painting must be properly hung to protect its value.

Do not hang valuable art over a hot radiator or near extreme heat or cold, a drafty fireplace, steam, boiling water, a greasy kitchen area, or where rays of sunlight hit its surface.

Paintings hung on staircase walls or behind doors often are hit, scratched or gouged.

If a painting is to be hung on a wall it generally is placed in the middle of the open space so that the middle of the painting is at the eye level of a person who stands 6 feet.

Paintings hung too high cause people to look up and the art can appear off-balanced or out of proportion. Some galleries hang paintings high on walls to create an illusion of importance. If a painting is hung too low, it often is deemed less significant and its proportions may seem incorrect.

When hanging art on a wall, place a piece of masking tape over the two spots where hanging devices will securely be placed. Separate each hanging device from 1-inch to 10-inches apart (depending on the size of the framed painting), so that when hung, the painting will stay level and will not tilt.

Heavy paintings can pull down nails hammered into cement walls or wallboard.

Long nails that stick out too far from a wall often puncture canvases or shove forward the back of a framed piece causing a shadow from the frame to be cast onto the painting.

Heavy paintings and frames should not be hung on short nails. More than 2 pounds of weight often pulls down short nails, and the painting can fall and be destroyed.

It is not wise to use aluminum nails because they bend.

Make certain all types of hanging wires and eye attachments (through which wire is strung) are strong and properly placed on the back of a frame. Eye attachments screwed into the back of a frame should be firmly in place and should not wiggle inside a hole.

Hanging wires corrode, weaken and break over time, without being touched. If each end of a hanging wire is not looped through each eye attachment twice before winding the wire around itself, the wire can uncoil, once a painting is hung and the artwork can fall off the wall.

Examine how wires are attached to a frame and how they are placed over hanging devices.

One hanging mistake can ruin a painting’s aesthetic and monetary value.

Some collectors prefer hanging many paintings from the top of a wall down to three feet off the floor, much like a 19th-century French atelier. This type of hanging allows collectors to place different sizes, shapes, styles, and periods together in a visually stimulating and attractive manner.

Interior decorators often hang three, five or seven paintings on a wall, preferring an uneven number for aesthetic reasons. If a 24 by 30 inch canvas is hung to the left, two 12 by 16 inch canvases can be hung to the right of it creating a visual balance, one on top of the other, and so forth. If the 24 by 30 inch canvas is placed five inches from the two 12 by 16 inch canvases, the space between the two 12 by 16 canvases should be five inches.

Collectors who have Siamese cats (or any other animal) that like to jump, climb, and scratch things or who have birds that fly freely through rooms should not hang valuable artwork.

If a painting hangs above a couch or chair and a seated person’s head — or an animal can hit its frame or the canvas — it should be moved.

Light enhances a painting’s colors and exposes details and aspects of a subject that are hidden or obscured in shadow or darkness.

There are many ways to light properly a painting. Some “old school” collectors prefer natural lighting or northern light exposure to modern halogen ceiling lights that can be directed to cast light down onto a painting without producing a glare.

Some collectors prefer to use small halogen lamps attached to the back of a frame with a plug hidden in a wall socket directly in back of a painting. This eliminates wires that run from a socket up a wall. Small picture lamps cast light from the top or bottom of a frame and give an intimate, warm ambiance. However, small lamps attached to frames can overheat or cause glare. Small picture lamps that are run on batteries are more frustrating than useful, because batteries continuously have to be changed.

No matter what kind of lighting is used, it is not recommended to place a lit bulb over 25 watts closer than four inches to a painting’s surface for more than 10 minutes. Heat can melt, fade or damage the surface of a painting. A light placed in an antique bowl on a mantle is an effective way to shine light up onto a painting if its frame is flat.

Halogen ceiling lights and smaller picture lights controlled by dimmer switches are the easiest and safest way to light expensive artwork. Before having ceiling lights installed, get an electrician to stand on a ladder and shine a beam of light on each painting.

If a ceiling light is placed too close to a wall and a painting’s frame is thick, a frame shadow will appear on the painting. Make certain that ceiling lights have moveable bulbs so that exchanging one painting for another will not create a frame shadow.

Anyone who owns a relevant art collection should make certain art is in good condition and hung and lit properly in a safe environment to protect its aesthetic and monetary values.

Patricia Jobe Pierce is a freelance writer, art historian, art dealer-consultant, certified AAA appraiser, public speaker, photographer and American art authenticator for museums, auction houses and collectors. She graduated from Boston University with a BFA in 1965, is owner and director of Pierce Galleries, Inc. in Nantucket and Hingham, Mass., and is author of many works, including, "Art Collecting & Investing: The Inner Workings and the Underbelly of the Art World." For more of her submissions, Click Here Now.




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A fine painting must be properly hung to protect its value.
eye, level, nails, painting
Friday, 16 September 2016 02:48 PM
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