Fine paintings are used as ornate decorations in custom homes and in offices. This is not surprising when you stop to realize has been with in one form or fashion for at least 40,000 years. Light in a paintings itself contributes to the tone of the work by creating a sense of depth through the interplay of light and shadows. Lighting for paintings should not cast shadows, however, but rather must discover and magnify the luminosity of the scene and animate the action between objects and characters. This method of lighting paintings is as old as Lascaux, where firelight was used to make the seemingly crude stick figures of hunters and animals suddenly spring to life with the illusion of three dimensional substance and physical movement.
To create this sense of vivid life and realism, lighting for paintings must be sourced from special types of fixtures and controlled in such a manner that enhances the work without damaging the piece or limiting the aesthetic.
Only filtered light can be used for safely lighting paintings.
Oils and canvases will degrade if exposed to UV light. Infrared light is not as damaging as ultraviolet light, but it nevertheless produces large quantities of heat that will dry out paint and crack the canvas. Because sunlight consists of both UV and IR radiation, it must never be used to light paintings, because it will quickly destroy them in a short period of time. Sunlight is much too bright to light a painting because it overpowers the combination of shadows and light in the painting and flattens the perspective of the image.
It is therefore necessary to use a filtered artificial light source that removes UV and IR rays from the light beam.
Use a light source with a high color rendering index (CRI).
Even though artificial light is much safer than sunlight to use as lighting for paintings, sunlight’s ability to render color is unmatched because sunlight is a perfect blend of all natural colors of the spectrum. Nevertheless, it is simply out of the question as a source of art lighting for paintings, so you have to use a close approximation to sunlight to bring out the color in your artwork.
When utilized for artwork lighting, recessed lights must be filtered. All art lighting projectors, because they are intended only for art lighting, are manufactured with filters in them.
Lighting for paintings must be adjustable and dimmable.
Paintings must be illuminated from the correct angle of incidence to avoid spill light shining past the boundaries of the frame and to avoid glare than can reflect off the canvas back into the eye. Picture lights are hard to adjust like this and are generally not recommended for this reason. Also, they can burn very hot at times and are extremely difficult to filter, making them unsafe as well.
Recessed lights and projectors are much better sources of illumination because they allow the decorator to change the direction of the light at will. Some recessed fixtures can be adjusted in this manner more easily than others, so it is important to make certain before ordering them if the models being ordered were made specifically for wall art lightingand fine art paintings.
Projectors offer an even greater range of adjustment because they hang suspended from the ceiling and can be positioned anywhere along a three-dimensional access. Some projectors are easier to adjust than others. It is best to talk to an art lighting specialist who can recommend the very best model suited to a particular home, office, or museum application.
Call a professional firm to have your art lights installed.
Lighting simple prints or photographs is something anyone can do with retail picture lights. Lighting a painting is something completely different. It takes commercial grade recessed lighting fixtures and bulbs that can only be obtained by a design firm from the manufacture. It also takes knowledge of art and design to truly create a masterpiece of lighting.
We keep saying it, but only because we think it is crucial. We need artful design in our lives every day, and it just makes sense to hire folks that incorporate it into their everyday work ethic. And who wouldn’t want to take advantage of a two-for-one offer? Get a free engineer with every designer, or a free designer with every engineer because they’re often the same person!
We’re based in Houston, Texas, but in truth, ILD is the only “one-stop” destination for lighting design services, engineering, landscape lighting services, and installation in the whole state of Texas. And to top it off we are unrivaled by any lighting firm in the United States for lighting that is art.
Call the electrical experts you can trust at Illuminations Lighting Design. We would love to hear from you, so pick up the phone and give us a call at 713-863-1133 or toll-free at 800-863-1184, so you can learn more before we begin your journey towards perfect lighting.