Displaying Artwork: Methods & Techniques

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  • 0:03 Why Display Artwork?
  • 1:07 Displaying Works on Paper
  • 3:25 Displaying Works on Canvas
  • 4:44 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Stephanie Przybylek

Stephanie has taught studio art and art history classes to audiences of all ages. She holds a master's degree in Art History.

Have you ever made a work of art you wanted to display? Did you frame it or do something else? In this lesson, you'll learn about different methods and techniques for displaying artwork.

Why Display Artwork?

What hangs on the walls of your home? Displaying artwork allows us to share it with others.

Methods of displaying artwork enable us to show art at its best. Some methods also protect fragile or sensitive works of art. If you're displaying old, historically significant or valuable art, it might be good to work with an art conservator, someone trained in preparing antique and historic art objects for display.

In this lesson, we'll concentrate on methods and techniques for displaying two-dimensional works of art. In general, there are two categories to consider. Many acrylic and oil paintings are done on surfaces like stretched canvas or linen. Stretched means the painting is on fabric that's pulled across and supported from behind by a series of wooden bars.

Then there are works on paper. Examples include drawings made with media like pencil or colorful pastels, paintings done in watercolor, and prints. Works on paper need more support when on display. Because it's more involved, we're going to look at techniques for displaying this group first.

Displaying Works on Paper

To display a work of art on paper, first prepare your work by mounting it. Mounting means to attach it to a harder backing larger than the work itself. It allows you to protect the work and keep it safe in the frame.

First, attach two T-shaped hinges to the top back of your work with artist's tape, a special tape that won't damage art. With these hinges, attach the art to an acid-free backing mat. One part of the sticky tape attaches to the art, and the other part attaches to the backing. The T-hinges suspend the work on the mat in the least damaging way possible. Behind the backing mat place a heavy backing board. It will be the external back of the frame.

By the way, acid-free papers and boards are made so they don't contain harmful substances that will damage the art. They're 100 percent cotton and allow your artwork to last longer without yellowing or discoloration.

Now you're ready to prepare the rest of the frame. A frame is a border structure, often made of wood, that surrounds a work of art around its sides and from behind.

In front of the artwork, place an acid-free mat. The front mat has an opening cut to match the size of the image on the art. Front mats often have beveled inner edges, which add a clean, finished appearance. Beveled means the edges are cut at a slight slant.

What kind of artwork on paper are you framing? At this point, there's an extra consideration for works done in pastels. Pastel is a colorful but powdery medium. To frame pastel works, you need a padded mat that lifts the mat from the art surface.

Above the mat goes glazing. Glazing is a thin sheet of glass or plexiglass that protects the art. For extra protection, choose glazing with UV protection. This means it contains substances that filter out damaging ultraviolet (UV) light which can fade artwork. And if you're adding glazing to pastel art, use glass and don't let the glazing touch the artwork surface.

Now you have a layered sandwich of boards and glazing with art in the middle. These layers can be placed into the frame of your choice. A wide variety of frames are available in art and hobby stores, professional frame shops, and online sources. Choose a frame that highlights your art but doesn't overwhelm it. Keep colors neutral. Keep the focus on the art and not the frame.

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