A Guest Blog Post by Nick Berg
This article was originally written for the Rareburg, who in December, has combined their enthusiasm with hobbyDB to provide an excellent source of collectible knowhow for the community.
Movie posters, their art and design evoke emotions in me unlike any other artistic format. Created by countless unknown studio employees and occasionally famous artists of the day, though mostly unrecognized at the time, no other form of mass entertainment has produced so much memorable art and amazingly some of these fantastic original posters survive.
My love of film began a life long passion for buying and selling movie posters so for my initial introduction to the hobby I would like to focus on their conservation, framing and display.
The main reason for deterioration in vintage movie posters is the acids used in the manufacture of the printing inks. Movie posters were designed to be used for a certain period then taken off display, returned to the distributor and destroyed. Therefore the inks used were not of the highest quality and over time these acids will slowly dissolve the paper until you are left with little more than dust. Do not despair however. There is a process that can not only halt the deterioration process, but also restore your poster to auction house quality standards.
Linen Backing is a double mounting process whereby a poster is mounted to cloth, such as linen or cotton. Linen backing helps preserve the poster; makes the poster more durable and is used by professional restorers to repair posters and return them to their original condition. When the process was first utilized for movie posters, real linen was used as the backing cloth. Linen is extremely beautiful, soft, pliable, expensive and rare.
Most of today’s restorers use 100% cotton duck. Cotton duck is a canvas material which is stiffer than linen, but is about one-third the cost. Linen is still used on occasion for extremely rare pieces.
The Process: Proper linen backing is actually accomplished through a double mounting process – first, after de-acidification, putting the poster on a sheet of acid-free Japanese rice paper, then mounting the poster (with the rice paper) onto the duck or linen cloth. The finished poster is then left to dry completely naturally. For a large poster such a three or six sheet (81″x81″), this may take up to six weeks or more.
What’s the impact on a poster’s value? In general, posters that are linen backed for preservation purposes and were in very good or better condition normally command higher prices than their un-backed counterparts. However, for the really rare titles, in the current climate most collectors would always prefer an example in the best possible original condition rather than a poster that had any issues before it was restored and backed on to linen.
Linen backing is without a doubt an expensive and time consuming process. However the results can be stunning, especially if the poster requires some restoration. Finally, there is also the added advantage of the additional linen border which allows for easier or more adventurous framing.
So once you’ve hunted down that elusive title and had your poster conserved and restored (should it need it), in order to show it at its best it will need to be professionally framed.
As with all artwork, framing is an extremely subjective process, with most preferring a plain black border in line with the original design of most cinema poster displays or of course you can opt for something completely different that matches with the design of your display area. There is no right or wrong, but there are some important points to remember.
With all vintage paper, and especially linen or paper backed posters, the poster should always be framed in such a way that the paper is not touching the protective glass. This is normally achieved using a surrounding mount (always 100% acid free conservation standard), but an alternative popular method is known as the box technique whereby a thin expansion slip is used just at the internal edge of the frame without any mount board thus achieving the same effect.
Whatever the desired end look, the reason for all these precautions is to prevent what is known as ‘transference’. In our UK climate it is not particularly unusual to have temperatures in the twenties one day followed by near winter the next. Over time these temperature fluctuations may cause small amounts of condensation to occur within the frame. If this happens between the paper and the glass a bond between the two may occur and the process is irreversible thus rendering your beautiful poster almost worthless. Obviously to be avoided!
Finally, the very last thing to do is to display and enjoy your collection. As with your choice of frame, there really is no right or wrong, but once again there are a few very important facts to remember.
Never hang your poster in direct or directly reflected sunlight. Nothing harms paper more than strong sunlight. The fading it causes happens remarkably quickly and once the damage has been done it is completely irreversible. This sort of damage can also be seen from strong spot lighting so I’d always opt for natural light when ever possible. Finally, do not hang your poster close to a radiator (hot, cold, etc.). They don’t like it!
Neat article! I have this gem from 1962 hanging in my home office!
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