22 April 2016

Confession #82

Today's confession is more of a friendly reminder:

Do not touch paintings with your hands, or any other part of your body for that matter.

The picture above is from the Timken Art Museum on San Diego, where Josh and I witnessed a fellow tourist stroking a 500 year old tapestry. I've also worked in an art gallery, where the viewer can walk right up to a painting and touch. I can't tell you how many times I had to ask people to stop touching the art. The trick was on them when the painting was still wet! Josh and I have two nice paintings in our house and people who come to visit us touch them constantly. I'd really rather people not touch our paintings, but I also know the artists who painted these use a ton of varnish. That puts my heart at ease.

Touching the surface of a painting leaves oils on the painting. Human oils, sunlight exposure, extreme temperature exposure, household cleaners, etc. damage paintings. If everyone touches paintings they see it wears away the varnish and then the paint will start to wear away. In a way, touching paintings is a selfish act, because you are taking away the life of a painting and fewer people will be able to enjoy it in its full glory. Even if a damaged painting is lucky enough to be in a museum system and have access to an art restorer, that still means it would have to be in someone's workshop for months and museum visitors wouldn't have the opportunity to view it. The Mona Lisa is behind a thick panel of glass and is under climate control, because the curators at the Louvre want to preserve it for years to come. It's a miracle that we have art from as far back as we do, because it's pretty delicate.

So, no matter how beautiful the colors are, no matter how cool the texture looks, no matter how old you are- do not touch the paintings. Art represents what we see and are cultural markers. We should preserve them the best way we can!

Note: Our guests from this past weekend are not included in the painting touching.


  1. Phew! I was thinking I'd only admired the art, but not touched it.
    Good explanation though about preserving the art, thanks.

  2. Old tapestries are also good for wiping the ketchup off your face from that hot dog you were eating when you entered the museum.