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Treating planar deformations of BEVA 371 lined paintings


Robert Motherwell, Open No.16 in Ultramarine with Charcoal Line(1968) (acrylic on canvas, 252.7 x 473.7 cm, ex. collection Dedalus Foundation), was damaged during transport, leaving a 13 cm concave and dimpled dent in the center of the composition, and two areas of surface distortions in the lower corners. The work had been previously cold-lined with BEVA-Gel onto cotton canvas. Due to the large format and transport status of the work, the treatment was conducted at a storage facility, with the painting mounted vertically to provide access to both faces. A thin profile 22 x 28 cm heating mat was introduced between the wood stretcher and the canvas and heated to 40oC for 10 minutes to soften the lining adhesive and relax the canvas and paint layers.


Once softened and smoothed, the deformation sites were cooled between two heat sink plates held in place for 30 seconds from either side. The same procedure was used to smooth the concave dent in the center. Various features of the heating mat system were ideal in resolving the challenges involved in this specific case: the portability of the system allowed work to be conducted on site; the size of the heating mat allowed the heating of an area slightly larger than the dent sites; the thin profile of the heat transfer mat allowed for heat transfer to the verso otherwise inaccessible due to the stretcher; and the accurate low temperature was ideal in treating the acrylic paint film in the safest range.

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