The term ‘facing’ is often used in detailed descriptions of the work that needs to be done when restoring an old or damaged oil painting.
Facing is the procedure whereby a restorer temporarily adheres paper, tissue or even canvas to the face/front surface of a picture with a reversible adhesive in order to protect the painting’s surface.
If a painting is observed to have loose or flaking paint before restoration commences and it is thought that there is a risk that some of the paint may fall off, it is advisable to ‘face’ the painting before any work commences.
Every oil painting is inspected on arrival in the studios to determine whether the foundation canvas on which the picture is painted is reliable and stable.
If there is evidence of shredding and wear and tear around the stretcher edges and the canvas has little or no tension, it is likely that the picture will need to be relined.
Relining means that the original canvas will be supported by bonding a new canvas to the back of the original so that the worn edges and any earlier patching on the back can be removed.
Once relined, the supporting new canvas can then be fixed to the existing stretcher if it is in good condition or attached to a new stretcher made specifically for the purpose.
The test for successful relining is that the finished relined canvas provides a tensioned and firm surface for cleaning and restoration to begin and help towards a successful outcome.