So, you have finished your paintings and they have cured and you are now faced with the question of whether or not to varnish them. For some artists, this is not even a question. Of course you varnish oil paintings. Everyone varnishes oil paintings…but do they?
There are a multitude of reasons behind why you should varnish your paintings-protection against fading and UV rays, easier to protect and clean etcetc…and with modern compounds, there is not quite the same risk of yellowing or fogging as in past years. But there are also many artists who are choosing not to varnish (heretics though they may be called) and I am leaning towards that faction.
On the one hand, I would love to regain that wet gloss look of freshly applied paint with some of my paintings, and I understand the long-term benefits. On the other hand, there is a certain sense of purity to the unvarnished painting where the tones and colours have not been evened out by adding a layer to it that really wasn’t originally intended. There are some paintings where I do not WANT it evened out, preferring that patchy, scratchy unevenness that gave the painting its original feel. And with some of my more highly textured pieces, the risk of having pools of varnish, no matter how carefully applied, stuck in the crevices really does not appeal to me. How many of the now considered masterpieces were NOT varnished, and how many artists over the years have deliberately chosen not to varnish? And why is it today, that if you choose not to varnish, it suddenly becomes a question of professional acumen?
So, to varnish or not, the debate continues…