Master Drawings: Preparing the drawings for framing

My name is Kate Edmondson and along with Katharine Lockett I am one of two paper conservators in The Courtauld Gallery.

We are responsible for the care and conservation of works of art on paper and are working closely with the curators throughout the preparation for Mantegna to Matisse: Master Drawings from The Courtauld Gallery.

When the drawings were first selected, we carefully checked the media and paper of each to make sure they were stable and in a good condition.

We then recommended appropriate framing materials and the correct light levels for display. A few drawings require small repairs; but most of them will need a new mount and of course all of them will have to be framed up. (I’ll be writing about framing in a later post)

It is important for us to display the whole drawing within the aperture of the mount – this is also called “float mounting”. Float mounting allows the viewer to see every part of the drawing; each small mark, pin-hole, inscription, collector’s stamp, as well as the often uneven and irregular edges of the paper.

To do this the drawing is inlayed into a sheet of archival quality paper; this “inlay” paper needs to be a similar thickness to the paper used for the drawing, and the same cream colour as the mount board.

One of the drawings I have been working on for Master Drawings  is Eugène Delacroix’s Sheet with Two Studies of Female Nude

This is how I prepared the Delacroix drawing for framing.

Eugène Delacroix Sheet with Two Studies of Female Nude before treatment

BEFORE TREATMENT: Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863) Sheet with Two Studies of Female Nude


The first part of the process was to place the drawing face up on a sheet of archival quality inlay paper and hold it firmly in position with glass weights. Then using a metal needle I carefully scored into the inlay paper following the exact contours of each edge of the drawing.

Scoring the outline

Above: Scoring the outline

Tearing along the scored line

Above: Tearing along the scored line

Delacroix drawing with the inlay

Above: The Delacroix drawing and new inlay

Then, with the drawing face-down, I joined the inlay and drawing together using a thin strip of Japanese paper. This was adhered with methycellulose which is an adhesive commonly used in paper conservation.

Attaching the strip of Japanese paper

Above: Attaching the thin strip of Japanese paper

After pressing for a few days, the inlayed drawing was secured into its new mount and is now ready for framing.

The inlay also provides a useful handling edge – allowing us to the lift or turn the drawing without touching the media or paper. This is particularly important when you have a study collection which is consulted by students and researchers, who may need to to view both sides of a drawing.

The handling edge

Over the next three weeks, all of the 58 drawings selected for the exhibition will pass through the conservation studio. Some will have a new inlay as described here and most will have a new mount cut – to make sure each drawing in the exhibition is presented to the highest standard.

Kate Edmondson, Conservator of Works on Paper

Kate Edmondson with the drawing now ready for framing

We look forward to catching up in a few weeks’ time as the installation date gets closer!