Cropping a Painting to Fit a Space ask the artsperts

Dear Artsperts,
I found an abstract painting in your gallery that I really like. I have a particular space in mind, but the space is too narrow. My interior designer suggested cutting off about 12 inches on each side of the painting and reframing it so the painting will fit. Can you do this for us?

Signed,
Cut Up

Dear Cut Up,
Simply put…no, absolutely not. As representatives of artists and stewards of fine art, we would be doing a disservice to the artist, to the work, and to you by authorizing a work to be cut to fit a space. Artists create paintings based upon a complete composition and when the dimensions are altered in any way, the full composition is lost. The overall integrity of the painting is then destroyed, and the value can become worthless or severely reduced.

Once a work of art is cut, whether by accident or on purpose, the work is considered a damaged work of art and requires fine art conservation to restore it as it was intended by the artist. Historically speaking there have been periods where works of art could be quite massive. The Renaissance period for one. In the 1700s, it became acceptable to cut these earlier works for space considerations. Today, there is a great effort to restore pieces of these Renaissance masterpieces back to how they were originally intended by the artists. Some works were divided into sections to become separate works of  art. Others were simply cropped down.

“The Night Watch” (1642) by Rembrandt which is currently in the permanent collection of the Rijksmuseum made news in 2019 as it was going under massive conservation efforts. It has been purposely attacked several times over its long history. Of note for this article, is that in 1715 the work was cropped and reframed for space. The work had been moved to the Amsterdam Town Hall and did not fit in the new space between two columns.

As reported by The Art Newspaper, February 19, 2019, A wide strip was trimmed from the left-hand side as well as smaller strips from the other three edges. Using algorithms and forensic imaging tools, conservators and data scientists will study deformations along the edges of the canvas to help extrapolate the exact width of the removed strips. Petria Noble, the head of the paintings conservation at the Rijksmuseum told The Art Newspaper, “Depending on the depth of the deformations it may be possible to figure out how much canvas is
missing.”

Could you imagine today if an interior designer would suggest cropping a work by Rembrandt as presumably one did in 1715? Even though you may not be purchasing a Rembrandt, the work of art and the artist should, nonetheless, be treated with respect. Also keep in mind, once a painting is cut, it will forever be a damaged work of art until it is restored with fine art conservation, a long, painstaking, and expensive process. If you love the work, we will work with you and your interior designer to find a space in your home where it can fit as
is!

Sincerely,
The Artsperts

Kristine Meek and Juliana Meek 

599 NINTH STREET NORTH SUITE 309 | NAPLES, FL 34102 | 239.261.2637

 

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