Matting – Definition, Examples, History & More – Art Conservation and Restoration Glossary

What is Matting?

Matting is the process of framing artwork or photographs by placing a border of paper or fabric around the image. This border serves to enhance the visual appeal of the artwork and protect it from damage.

Matting also helps to create a visual separation between the artwork and the frame, preventing the two from touching and potentially causing damage over time.

Importance of Matting in Art Conservation

Matting plays a crucial role in art conservation by providing a protective barrier between the artwork and the frame. This barrier helps to prevent damage from moisture, dust, and other environmental factors that can degrade the quality of the artwork over time.

Additionally, matting can help to stabilize the artwork within the frame, preventing it from shifting or becoming damaged during handling or display.

Types of Matting Materials

There are several types of materials that can be used for matting artwork, each with its own unique properties and benefits. Some common matting materials include:

1. Paper: Paper mats are a popular choice for matting artwork due to their affordability and versatility. They come in a variety of colors and textures, allowing for customization to suit the artwork’s aesthetic.

2. Fabric: Fabric mats, such as linen or silk, are a more luxurious option for matting artwork. They provide a soft and elegant border that can enhance the overall presentation of the artwork.

3. Conservation-grade matboard: Conservation-grade matboard is made from acid-free materials that are designed to protect artwork from degradation over time. This type of matting material is recommended for valuable or delicate artwork.

Matting Techniques in Art Restoration

Art restoration professionals use a variety of techniques to mat artwork in a way that is both aesthetically pleasing and protective. Some common matting techniques include:

1. Hinging: Hinging is a method of attaching the artwork to the matboard using archival tape or adhesive. This technique allows the artwork to expand and contract with changes in humidity, preventing damage from warping or buckling.

2. Float mounting: Float mounting is a technique where the artwork is attached to the matboard without any visible attachments, giving the appearance that the artwork is floating within the frame. This technique is often used for delicate or valuable artwork.

Common Issues with Matting

Despite its benefits, matting can also present some challenges and issues in art conservation. Some common issues with matting include:

1. Acid migration: If acidic materials are used in the matting process, they can cause acid migration to the artwork, leading to discoloration and degradation over time.

2. Overmatting: Overmatting occurs when the border around the artwork is too wide, overpowering the image and detracting from its visual impact. This can make the artwork appear cramped within the frame.

Best Practices for Matting in Art Conservation

To ensure the best possible outcome for matting artwork in art conservation, it is important to follow these best practices:

1. Use conservation-grade materials: When matting artwork, always use acid-free and archival-quality materials to protect the artwork from degradation over time.

2. Allow for expansion and contraction: When attaching the artwork to the matboard, use hinging techniques that allow the artwork to expand and contract with changes in humidity to prevent damage.

3. Consider the aesthetics: When choosing matting materials and techniques, consider the overall aesthetic of the artwork and frame to create a cohesive and visually appealing presentation.

By following these best practices and understanding the importance of matting in art conservation, you can help to preserve and protect valuable artwork for future generations to enjoy.