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A raised, convex area or bubble on the surface of an object, often between adjoining layers of different material. (AICC n.d.) "Swelling on the surface usually caused by excessive heat or friction" (Jewett 1983).

Blisters in painting

Related Terms[edit | edit source]

blind cleavage; tenting

Synonyms in English[edit | edit source]

bubble; bulge

Translation[edit | edit source]

English blister
French ampoule
Spanish ampolla
Portuguese bolha
Italian bolla
German blase
Russian волдырь
Arabic نفطة
Chinese (Traditional) 浮凸

Discussion[edit | edit source]

Blisters can be found in a variety of media including paints, coatings, embedments, and metals (MFA 2013). Blistering can also be seen on stone monuments and sculpture (Vergès-Belmin 2008). Primary causes of blisters are fluctuations in or excessive exposure to heat and humidity, trapped pockets of air, liquid, or solvents, and insufficient adhesives. Soluble salts can contribute to blistering on stone.

Fluctuations in humidity induce supports to shrink, making them unable to accommodate the paint. As a result, the paint lifts away in long peaked blisters known as tenting. (Walsh 2014)

Additionally, the Canadian Conservation Institute notes that, "a blister may be a form of blind cleavage." (CCI 2013)

The Dutch Method is a treatment technique used when paint is blistering, flaking, or scaling on canvas. Damar resin is heated until dissolved, then mixed with beeswax. The warmed mixture (between 160-175 degrees F) is carefully brushed over the damaged area. The mixture chemically bonds with the paint and softens it, allowing the paint to be re-adhered with a heated palette knife. (Dorward 2014)

Consolidating the paint layer with a suitable adhesive, such as isinglass and honey, is another way to treat paint blisters. This substance can be injected into the blister, followed by warming of the area, and then resting the paint layer back down on its support. (Roberts 2014)

With any method, care needs to be taken not to shatter the fragile paint layer, remodel the paint, or change the artist's intention. (von Monschaw n.d.)

Small blisters in veneer can also be treated with heat. After protectively covering the area to be treated, a medium-hot iron can be pressed against the blister until flattened. Large blisters need to be slit first along the grain of the wood. Following the slit, the area is covered, heat is applied, and carpenter's glue is added if needed. As the blister flattens, any overlapping veneer is shaved off. Afterward, the flattened areas are weighted for 24 hours, then waxed and polished. (Consumers Guide 2006)

References[edit | edit source]

AICCM. "Blistering". Accessed 11 April 2014. Retrieved from

Canadian Conservation Institute. "Condition Reporting-Paintings. Part III: Glossary of Terms. Last modified 24 July 2013. Retrieved from

Consumers Guide. How Stuff Works. "How to Repair Wooden Furniture Veneer." 12 April 2006. Retrieved from

Dorward, Lisa. "Oil Painting Canvas Repair Techniques." Accessed 11 April 2014. Retrieved from

Getty Research Institute. Art and Architecture Thesaurus online. "Blister" Accessed 11 April 2014. Retrieved from

Museum of Fine Arts Boston. CAMEO. "Blister." Last modified July 24, 2013. Retrieved from

Roberts, Mark. "Structural Work." Accessed 11 April 2014. Retrieved from

von Monschaw, Elline. Holy Cross Dundrum. "The Work of Conservation and Restoration." Accessed 11 April 2014. Retrieved from

Walsh, Valentine. "Paintings Ageing Gracefully or Grievous Bodily Harm?" Accessed 11 April 2014. Retrieved from

Vergès-Belmin, V., ed. 2008. Illustrated glossary on stone deterioration patterns. English-French ed., Monuments & Sites no. 15. Paris: ICOMOS and (ISCS) International Scientific Committee for Stone.

Jewett, D. 1983. A glossary for recording the condition of an artifact. Ottawa : Canadian Heritage Information Network, National Museums of Canada.

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