Portable X-ray Fluorescence and Infrared Fluorescence Imaging Studies of Cadmium Yellow Alteration in Paintings by Edward Munch and Henri matisse in Oslo, Copenhagen, and San Francisco

Jennifer Mass, Erich Uffelman, Barbara Buckley, Inger Grimstad, Anna Vila , John Delaney, Jørgen Wadum, Victoria Andrews, Lindsay Burns, Samuel Florescu, Alyssa Hull

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The identification of altered cadmium yellow paints in early modernist works is critical to their stabilization and to the long-term preservation of the paintings in which they occur. The identification of incipient photoalteration of these pigments, before there is visual evidence of their chemical degradation, is of particular concern. The alteration of these pigments causes chalking, flaking, fading, and darkening of the yellow paints, leading to irreversible changes in the physical and chemical structure of the paint layer and dramatically altering the appearance of the work. Standoff methods for the identification of this phenomenon are desired to rapidly and efficiently survey the condition of the pigment across an entire work and also to minimize invasive and destructive
analyses wherever possible. Such methods are a particular need for collections with large holdings of Impressionist and early modernist works from the 1880s to the 1920s, for which these cadmium yellow alterations are particularly problematic and a rapid surveying method for the collection is needed. To address this challenge, four standoff methods were attempted (both alone
and in concert): ultraviolet-induced visible fluorescence, ultraviolet-induced infrared fluorescence, multispectral imaging, and X-ray fluorescence. Questions addressed included the following: Is the imaging method being tested comprehensive? Is it efficient at surveying an entire painting? Does it reveal the state of preservation of the pigment? Does it reliably discriminate among intact versus altered cadmium yellow pigments? To answer these questions, the methods were tested on Henri Matisse’s Le Bonheur de vivre (1905–1906, the Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia) and oil sketches for this work in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen. They were also tested on Edvard Munch’s The Scream (ca. 1910?, Munch Museum, Oslo). It was found that ultraviolet-induced visible fluorescence has the best ability to discriminate between altered and unaltered cadmium yellow paints (even before alteration is visible to the unaided eye), whereas multispectral imaging allows for the most efficient and comprehensive localization of the cadmium pigments in a work.
TidsskriftSmithsonian Contributions to Museum Conservation
Sider (fra-til)53-64
Antal sider12
StatusUdgivet - 2016