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I have read claims by amateur artists that because acrylic paints are "plastic" they will last forever and never crack or delaminate. I quite enjoy painting with acrylics and am curious what we actually know from experience or research, or can infer about the longevity of acrylic paintings. There are so many ways to use this versatile medium that I also wonder whether how you use it affects its archival properties. Thanks for your thoughts.
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Thanks for the question. I could reply but I think that it
would be more appropriate for our moderators who have more expertise in acrylic
dispersion paints to comment. I have sent your question to them.
Thank you, Brian.
In terms of lightfastness the two mediums don't differ, as the lightfastness depends on the pigments themselves. On the one hand, acrylic mediums yellow less and remain considerably more flexible, compared to linseed oil which yellows and tends to become brittle over time. On the other hand oil paintings have significantly better resistance to solvents, which makes them easier to clean for conservators. Fact is, there are much less known conservation issues with acrylic paintings than with oil paintings.
We have seen flaking of acrylic dispersion paints only if the substrate was not prepared suitably. As long as you use artist quality paints and follow general best practice guidelines for your preparatory layers you should be good. Both oil and acrylic paintings will have signs of age at some point and develop a patina.
For in-depth comparison of the mediums here are some links:
Thank you, Mirjam.
Many of the short-term acrylic paint failures I've been made aware of had to do with paint or primer that was applied in cold temperatures, usually in a studio with heat turned off at night. That is a significant vulnerability of the medium, when the freshly applied paint is exposed to temperatures below the threshold for a strong film to form, usually below 50 degrees F. It will look fine at first, but a dry paint film so affected will often make a sickening crackle when pressed lightly from the reverse.
I found this from the Smithsonian, which I thought was interesting: https://www.si.edu/mci/english/learn_more/taking_care/acrylic_paintings.html