Does Sunlight Harm Oil Paintings?

by Marshall | Oil Paintings

The effect of sunlight on oil paintings is a topic that has been debated for centuries. It was once believed that sun exposure would harm an artwork, but it turns out this may not be the case after all. This article will discuss how sunlight can affect oil paintings as well as what types of damage are caused by overexposure to light.

How Do You Protect Artwork From Sunlight? 

This is a question that many art lovers ask themselves. The answer to this query depends on the type of artwork, where it will be displayed, and how long you want to protect it. Some types of oil paintings require more protection than others, while some pieces should never come in contact with sunlight at all. When hanging your painting or drawing inside your home gallery, choose an area away from windows, the best place might even be under any skylights you have installed into your roofing system. There are also other ways artists can ensure their work has optimal light exposure when hung up for display. If they don’t have access to windowless rooms within their homes or studios then there are various options available online which block out sunlight.

Oil Paintings In Sunlight

A little sunshine is not a major issue for most oil paintings, but direct afternoon glare should be avoided. The heat and light can have negative effects on the appearance of your artwork as time goes by because it ages over many years with exposure to both UV rays without protection or varnish that protects them from getting damaged in sunlight. While some paints may stay preserved underneath their protective layer even when placed against windows that are open all day long during summer months due to an absence of UV rays in the atmosphere, it is probably best to use curtains or blinds during the summer when exposed to direct sunlight for most paintings.

Oil Paintings' Causes of Discoloration

There are many causes of oil paintings' discoloration. Here are some:

Direct Access To Heat

Oil paintings are not as durable and will eventually fade with time. Fading starts at the surface level, but you can also expect some other effects like cracks or even destruction of your masterpiece. The most important thing to know about them is how exposure influences their durability, being close to heat sources such as fireplaces can lead towards quicker deterioration depending on what else they're touching in addition to the type of paint used for its finish.

Exposure To Oil Painting In Direct Sunlight

Exposure to oil paintings in direct sunlight may cause damage to the painting due to ultraviolet rays that are harmful to many materials, including paint pigments and canvas. Even when placed behind glass or in an art storage unit, it is best not to store a portrait directly under strong light. It is recommended instead to keep paintings away from exterior windows where direct sunlight can shine on them all day long without any protection. Oil paintings should also be kept out of enclosed spaces with no ventilation since trapped heat will increase the temperature within its surrounding environment which might lead to cracking of paints over time if there’s too much moisture present inside the room itself. Lastly, humidity around oil portraits must always remain low as high humidity levels can also cause damage to paintings.

Filtered Sunlight If Not More Is Equally Disastrous

While the light from a window is not as intense, filtered sunlight is less harmful than direct exposure to sunlight. Filtered daylight can be beneficial for paintings by increasing surface temperature and accelerating drying time without causing discoloration or other damage. Exposure to natural daylight should still be minimized when possible but if you must have your painting hanging near a window, make sure it’s behind some glass.

By Dru Bloomfield -, CC BY 2.0,

Light Fastness Of Pigments Matters

Lightfastness of pigments matters when it comes to oil paintings. Over time, exposure to sunlight causes cracks in the paint and yellowing due to the formation of free radicals within pigments. Oil paints are made up of organic compounds that can be sensitive towards oxidation because they contain hydrogen which makes them susceptible to degradation by enzymes in the air or ultraviolet light (UV) radiation. Some pigments may fade under direct sun or lighting conditions while others do not degrade significantly over time even after long-term exposure. The same goes for other variables such as atmospheric humidity levels so what works well at one location might affect your painting differently elsewhere.

There are several ways to protect artwork from direct and filtered sunlight. However, if you don't take precautions before it's too late, your oil painting will be irreparably damaged by light exposure. If this is happening now with one or more of your paintings, contact us today for more information on how we can help. Our experts can diagnose the problem and recommend solutions that meet all of your needs so that you never have to worry about the quality of art again.

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