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I was inquiring if it is necessary to varnish oil paintings. I understand varnish can protect against UV light, dirt and abrasions, but I use very thick impasto oil paint. From what I understand it can take many years to dry. I add a stand oil to the paint, so the surface of the paint has a relatively even sheen upon drying so aesthetics is not an issue. From a conservation point of view is it best not to varnish, or varnish at about 3-6 months (probably with Gamvar). Does Frank Auerbach's work have problems as I do not think he varnished his paintings?
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Varnish does provide the protections you mention but its
necessity is a bit overstated. One thing that it certainly does is help prevent
grime from chemically bonding with the paint. However, much of the damage that
has occurred to paintings over time is from clumsy attempts to remove old
degraded varnish. This is less of an issue with today’s far more reversible
varnishes and making sure that any cleaning is done by a fully trained painting
Most of the function of varnish is purely aesthetic. It unifies sheen
and resaturates colors that may have sunk in. It is perfectly fine to forgo a
final varnish if that is the appearance you want, especially if your paint is fully bound and retains its own
natural sheen (meaning that the surface is rather closed and not overly porous).
Thank you for your response, especially about the paint being underbound. This would explain why certain artists work looks dry and lifeless. Could this be due to the collection of dust into the porous oil paint that have not been varnished? From this observation I assume it is better to add stand oil to the paint if it is not varnished.