Choices to Conserve Personal Artwork

Even without hiring an art conservation firm, individuals can take steps to protect their personal artwork. Based on the chemistry of art deterioration, there are many ways to preserve both sculptures and paintings.

Figure B: A statue covered for the winter
Figure A: A monument damaged by acid rain, caused by sulfur oxides in the air

Protecting Sculptures

Exposure to the elements is a major source of deterioration for sculptures and statues (see the deterioration page for more details). Air pollution such as sulfur, sulfur oxides, and chlorides react with materials of statues and cause their decay. Climate change can also affect statues (especially those made of concrete) by expanding cracks.2 Ideally, sculptures should be kept indoors where the air, moisture, and temperature are regulated.

However, it is not always feasible to keep large sculptures inside. In this case, sculptures should be kept away from highly polluted areas and covered during foul weather (such as in the winter). Statues can also be treated with wax and sealants to fill cracks and prevent the material from reacting with the air.2 Taking these measures and regularly checking on the condition of sculptures can prevent their deterioration.

Figure C: Chips in a painting, like damage caused by changes in humidity and temperature

Preserving Paintings

As with statues, exposure to natural elements such as pollutants, moisture, and light can deteriorate paintings (see the deterioration page to learn more). They can react with varnishes and pigments in paintings, causing them to crack or change color.

To preserve paintings, their environment should be regulated. High levels and changes in humidity can cause paint to peel or crack, so the surroundings should be kept at a constant level between 40 and 60 percent humidity.1 Paintings should also be kept away from temperature change, heat, and pollutants. They should never be hung near fireplaces or vents.1

Ultraviolet light can also fade pigments, so the lighting near paintings should be regulated. Sunlight includes UV light, the reason paintings should be kept away from windows.1 Halogen lights also damage paintings--incandescent and tungsten bulbs are ideal for displaying paintings.1 Controlling the environment of paintings can keep them from deteriorating over time.


1. "Caring for Paintings." Old World Restorations. Old World Restorations, Inc., 2012. Web. 18 Apr. 2014. <>.

2. "Sculpture and Statuary Art Restoration and Repair." Old World Restorations. Old World Restorations, Inc., 2012. Web. 18 Apr. 2014. <>.


A. Barbieri, Nino. Pollution - Damaged by acid rain. Digital image. Wikipedia. Wikipedia, 2005. Web. 18 Apr. 2014. <>.

B. Daderot. Bixi stele (wrapped), Harvard University, Cambridge, MA. Digital image. Wikipedia. Wikipedia, 14 Feb. 2010. Web. 18 Apr. 2014. <,_Harvard_University,_Cambridge,_MA_-_IMG_4607.JPG>.

C. R.graphicart. Frederick Hulse, 1900, Oil color on Canvas - Before Restoration. Digital image. Wikipedia. Wikipedia, 14 Aug. 2012. Web. 18 Apr. 2014. <,_1900,_Oil_color_on_Canvas_-_Before_Restoration.jpeg>.