Care & Restoration

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Photo from Grant Heilman collection Thanks to Carol Faill, the Special Collections curator at Franklin & Marshal College for her help in creating this page.

Because prints by Luigi Rist were made from 1935 to the late 50's, that makes many of them 50-60 years old today.  Many of the prints I have were damaged in one way or another when I acquired them.  Many times, it's a simple matter of remounting and reframing the print to stop further damage.  Remember that many of the people who did the original  framing were not aware of the effects of acid mats, cardboard, sunlight, glue, newsprint, etc.  Adolf Konrad tells me that some of the prints had crumpled paper behind the prints to give them a "three dimensional quality".  You can imagine the damage to these prints!   In other cases, a print is damaged to the point that some kind of restoration is needed.

This page is dedicated to helping keep your prints in top condition and to help those fix damaged prints.  

While I'm not an expert, I have found the following from talking to experts...

  1. If you have a print in a frame and aren't sure of it's quality, take it to a qualified frame shop and have the mats checked to make sure they are acid free.  If not, replace them.  If they don't know how to check a mat, they aren't qualified!
  2. Keep your print out of direct sunlight.  I use UV glass or plastic when I reframe.  This will help keep UV damage to a minimum.  However, always keep prints out of direct sunlight.
  3. If your print is damaged or discolored, many times it can be restored or greatly improved to stop further damage.  To find a qualified restorer, contact your local art museum or university art department.  They don't do the work, but they should be able to recommend  people in your area that can work on your print.  

I am also trying to collect names of people who have a track record on working on Rist prints and I will put contact information here when I find some.  If you have any further advice, or have someone you would recommend for print repair, please contact me.

Repair and Restoration Services Contact Information
Phoenix Art Restoration and Custom Framing
Petra Kreidler, Conservator
(Note tlg: this is the service I use for print and paper restoration and now have other locations in the Seattle area).

 17521 15th Ave NE

Shoreline, WA  98155



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 (Author unknown)

As defined by the print Council of America, an original print is a work of art, the general requirements of which are:

  1. The artist alone has created the master image in or upon the plate, stone, woodblock or other material, for the purpose of creating the print.
  2. The print is made from the said material, by the artist or pursuant to his directions.
  3. The finished print is approved by the artist.

An impression qualifying under each of the requirements set forth above is a direct autographic statement of the artist's intent and is therefore an original work of art.


Although the concept of printmaking extends many centuries into the past, it is only within the last 100 years that the concept of the original print, as we know it today, has come into being.

The course of 19th and 20th century art, with its dominant movements and great individualists, can be traced in the medium of graphic art. Today, as never before, artists are interested in printmaking by all methods and combinations of methods. This interest is matched by that of collectors, and those who would not so regard themselves, and, while opportunities of acquiring first class prints by dead masters are becoming rarer - and the prints more expensive - this is not true of works by living artists. Here one may exercise personal judgment, without necessarily relying on an established name or the support of conservative critical opinion.

The artist's intention in the creation of an original print or poster is the primary factor in the "originality" of the finished work. An "original" print is the image on paper or other material, created by one or a combination of the processes described below. Each process has a special visual or, by touch, identifiable quality. Accordingly, because more than one copy of an image is made, "original" does not mean "unique" (as in the sense of a painting.)

Therefore, we come to the "edition" of the "original print" which is the number of prints made of the image. Until recently, only four printing processes were considered viable for original prints, however modern artists are accepting the photo mechanical platemaking techniques used in direct and offset lithography.


RELIEF: The types of prints made through this process are: Woodcuts, linocuts, embossing and wood engravings. In this, the oldest and simplest technique a drawing is made on a flat surface of a block, then using a knife, all surface not to be inked is gouged or chiseled from the block. When the block is inked and pressed onto paper, the image printed is that of the raised surface only. The surface of a rubber stamp closely resembles a woodblock: a "linocut" or linoleum cut is made similarly - but from linoleum.

INTAGLIO: This process covers engraving, drypoint, etching, aquatint and mezzotint. This is the reverse of relief printing. Materials used are: wood. zinc. copper, plastics and other materials. Tools used are etching needles, acids, burns etc. The surface is incised into the plate or surface; whereas interacting what remains on the surface was inked, here what is below the surface is printed. Thus after the plate has been completed the surface is inked and then wiped clean leaving only the ink in the incisions below the surface. The paper is dampened to give it elasticity and then applied to the plate under great pressure so that the areas of the paper to be printed are pressed into the inked incisions. Engraved business cards or announcements with their raised lettering are examples of this method.

LITHOGRAPHY: Lithographs are produced by drawing with a grease crayon on a flat stone, slab, zinc or aluminum plate. Since oil (grease) and water do not mix, the design is first washed %kith water, then a greasy ink which adheres only to the design on the plate, is rolled over the surface. When paper is placed on the inked surface and pressed under pressure to the stone, only the inked design is transferred to the paper.

STENCIL: Serigraph (silk-screen) printing is accomplished by tightly stretching silk, nylon, organdy or other porous fabric over a frame, thus making a screen. The artist either "cuts" the screen by hand or has the design put on the screen through a photo mechanical process. In either instance the design areas to be printed are left open thus allowing the ink to pass through. The ink is pressed through the open areas of the screen with a squeegee and transferred to the paper.

LETTERPRESS PRINTING: Another planographic process wherein a photo sensitized plate is etched with the design and the paper is pressed against the inked plate.

OFFSET LITHOGRAPHY: A photo sensitized plate is etched with the design and attached to the roller of the press. The plate is then inked and the ink transferred to a hard rubber roller. The inked roller presses against the paper and transfers the image. This is the only indirect process, i.e. one where the original plate does not touch the paper.

Generally speaking, each color of a print must be applied individually and with few exceptions, from individually made blocks, plates or screens for each color. With photo offset lithography four process colors are combined to produce the desired variety or an exact facsimile of the original art.


There are many terms used in connection with original prints. The following is a very simply guide to help the layman in distinguishing what they mean.

EDITION: The total number of prints made from one design is called an edition. On a numbered plate the lower number of the fraction tells how many of that print were made The upper number is used simply to number the prints. Editions are published by the artist, or under the artist's supervision, but with financial backing by museums, art dealers, printing firms or societies. Often a publisher's imprint will appear on a print.

SIZE OF EDITION: The size of an edition is determined to some extent by the technique used. Intaglio printing yields many less successful prints than lithographs or relief prints. Editions of less than 100 are considered small. The contemporary artist often limits his editions to 30-50 prints, especially if he prints them himself. An average edition is one of 100-150. Since many original prints have been produced to accompany a written text, these may be found in very large editions of thousands. The value of the print is often determined by its rarity; but quality has nothing to do with the number of copies of a print.

PRINTING: Many prints are actually taken by professional printers. This has no importance in itself. The main criterion that determines originality is the degree to which the artist has created the design for the print of done the actual work on the plate itself. The task of printing is a hard one. Each print must be done separately and if the artist does his own printing - which most contemporary artists do - he usually uses a hand press. Naturally if each color on a print has to be printed separately and each print carefully inked the task is a long and time-consuming one.

CANCELLED PLATE: When the edition is fully printed the plate is cancelled. Most artists mark their plate in some way to show that the edition is completed. Sometimes the plates are donated or sold to a museum.

RESTRIKE: Occasionally a cancelled plate is reprinted. These prints are not part of an edition, but since they come from the artist's original plate they are still considered originals. These prints usually sell for much less than a signed and numbered edition copy of the identical print.

SIGNED COPIES: Signing a print is a relatively modern custom (as is numbering) and has nothing to do with originality of the print. It does establish that the artist claims that print for his own work. Many prints are signed "in the plate", which is not the same thing as the artist hand signing the print in pencil.

ARTIST'S PROOFS: Although there is a limit to the edition of a print there is a custom that the artist reserves a quantity of the prints for himself lettered, numbered or marked in a different fashion form the rest of the prints and these are known as artist's proofs. For various reasons they often appear on the market.

STATES: The mark "etat" or "state" may appear on a print and this means that a trial proof has been taken at some stage in the completion of a print. These proofs are found usually in the cases of etched or engraved works where a testing stage is often employed. These proofs are usually worth more than completed copies or edition copies.

REPRODUCTIONS: A reproduction is a print done by some mechanical process, in which the artist has in no way contributed to the process of making an original print: that is, he has not designed the plate. Paintings, drawings, water colors, and gouache drawings are often photo-mechanically reproduced. Very often the artist signs a number of these "reproductions" but they are not true original prints. The French call these works "estamps".


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 (Author unknown)

Knowledge about prints combined with increasing interest in the subject generally culminates in a desire to own favored works. Before long, the acquisitions begin to multiply and the question of how to take good care of them arises.

If they are to last, prints must be protected from certain potential dangers. These include: excessive moisture, extreme dryness, noxious pests, destructive fumes and rough handling. Two methods of preservation are most practical. One is to frame prints and place them on view where they may be seen regularly and continuously enjoyed. The other is to keep them in a portfolio or cabinet from which they may be removed easily and examined at leisure.

Casings for unframed prints should be dustproof and spacious enough for the prints to remain uncramped. It is wise to keep the prints in mats where cardboard backing and frame thus provided affords protection for each print as well as separation between each print in a collection.

The mat for a print consists of two parts. The first is a base or backing sheet, usually of stiff cardboard. The print is attached to the base board with materials like library paste and Japanese tissue or the glassine paper hinges used in postage stamp collections. Such hinges can be peeled away easily without tearing the paper of the print or the base of the mat. The hinges are applied to the two upper corners of the print. Gummed paper tape, cellophane tape, masking tape, strong glues or rubber cement should not be used to attach the print to a mat base. Either they dry out and fail to provide continued adhesion, or they tend to stain the paper of the prints because of certain ingredients they contain not readily apparent when they are first used. 

Prints should not be attached completely to a mount as they may be irreparably harmed. The second part of the mat is generally also a sheet of cardboard. A window is cut out in the middle of this top sheet to reveal the design of the print. The over-sheet of the mat is hinged to the base sheet along their common top edge with linen cloth tape. Sometimes the upper layer of the mat (that provides a border or margin around the print) is covered with burlap or some other fabric to lend richness and appeal to the print setting that a mat makes possible.

Only 100% rag mat board should be used with prints. While mat boards made from woodpulp are a little less expensive than 100% rag stock they contain substances which have a deteriorating and discoloring effect upon the papers used for making prints. In the long run, the small extra cost of 100% rag mat board more than pays for itself in the protection it provides for original graphic prints.

If a print is to be framed for safekeeping as well as for display, it is necessary to decide the type framing most suitable for that particular print. Four methods are commonly employed in framing original prints.

  1. The print may be located between a piece of cardboard and a piece of glass, both of which are the same size as the print. This sandwich is then placed within a frame. With this procedure it is wise to have a little strip of wood, plastic or cardboard placed all around between the perimeter or outer edges of the print paper and the glass so that a little air space separates the paper surface from the underside of the glass. Such a separation helps prevent possible condensation of moisture on the glass from affecting the paper of the print.
  2. The print may be attached to a base or backing sheet of 100% rag cardboard or other safe material without any top sheet for bordering. The print thus appears to float on a base larger all around than the print. The print and backing sheets are then covered with a piece of glass the same size as the backing sheet and the complete assembly placed within an appropriate frame. As in the instance of the close framing, it is important to provide for a separation space between the floated print and the covering glass.
  3. The print, located in a hinged, two-part mat, is simply placed into a frame under glass. This is probably the most widely practiced method of framing original prints.
  4. The fourth procedure is really a combination of floating with the use of a mat. The print is attached to the backing or base sheet, but the entire paper appears to float within the space of the opening (or window) in the top layer of the hinged, two piece mat. The completed assembly is then placed within an appropriate frame under glass.

No single method of framing is best for all prints. The frame molding, the nature of the design in the print, whether or not there is any marginal paper around the print image area, personal preferences and the nature of the interior in which the framed print will appear all need to be taken into account in deciding the right method for a given print.

It is possible to use a transparent plastic - like Plexiglas - instead of glass in frames. Unlike glass, plastic is relatively light in weight, and it will not shatter if the frame sustains some shock. Unfortunately, plastic is much more expensive than glass, and it must be cleaned with only a damp cloth when it gets dusty. No cleansers containing abrasives should be used on plastic as they can scratch its smooth but relatively soft surface.

Over-exposure to strong daylight or fluorescent light bring on deterioration in paper. Since most prints are made on paper, framed prints should be placed where strong sunlight or fluorescent light cannot cause damage.

Owning and looking at original prints can be a source of continuous personal pleasure. Efforts made to care for and keep original prints properly will insure the continued enjoyment of such pleasure.

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Restoration Services

Most larger cities have at least one paper restoration service.  You can contact you local library or art dealer to find one in your area.  I have been using a service here in the Seattle area to remove acid burns and other discoloration from older prints.  The costs depend on what needs to be done and the size of the print.  Most of the work they have done for me is under $100 a print (this does not includes shipping or archival mounting/framing).  If you have a favorite service in your area, send me the info, and I'll add it to this page.

Phoenix Art Restoration and Custom Framing

Petra Kreidler, Conservator

17521 15th Ave NE

Shoreline, WA  98155


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Tom Gilchrist,
Revised: 18 Jun 2013 23:14:01 -0700