Article by Mary Hughes

An often forgotten element in purchasing art is lighting. Artists use the best possible lighting they can to create that masterpiece you've now purchased.  Natural light is usually the best bet for painters but relying strictly on natural light can limit the days and hours of work, either because of weather or the short days of winter. There are hours in the summer I can't begin to work in my studio because the sun has completely taken over! In those cases artists turn from natural light to their lamps. I have three lamps lighting up my work area.

When photographing art, light again plays a big part. With too little, too much, or just the wrong kind of lighting the beauty and depth of the art is lost.

So you can see with the element of lighting playing such a huge part in the creation and sale of art it's equally important in the display and enjoyment of the art also. A well lit painting can be the focal point in any room.

While oil paintings are not nearly as fragile, when it comes to light it's usually a good rule of thumb to not display your painting in full sunlight. Diffused sunlight would be a better choice. Watercolors and any art that is created on paper or fabric is much more fragile and could be harmed over time if direct lighting is used. Keep in mind also if your art is mounted under glass you want lighting that won't produce glare.

Lighting that brings out the details and true color of the art while blending naturally with the surroundings of the room can be eye pleasing. There are many choices of lamp designs. Wall mounted lamps made just for art, lamps that mount on the frame; track lighting; and your standard floor and table lamps are the most common. Each come in a variety of style, color and price range.

While lamp design and placement are key, the bulb itself is even more important.

Incandescent lighting brings out warm colors but does not work for cool colors very well, while Halogen bulbs with their white light bring out colors most like natural sunlight and can work well at a lower wattage. Combinations of the two types of lighting can bring out pleasing results.

If you choose to use lamps that put light directly on the artwork be sure and use low wattage bulbs because bright light may eventually fade out the art. I have not come across anyone yet to recommend fluorescent lighting so I would steer clear of that because of the UV rays they emit and because they don't present all colors well.