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Preserving van Gogh's priceless masterpieces

Date:
November 14, 2012
Source:
American Chemical Society
Summary:
The chrome yellow pigment that renowned post-Impressionist artist Vincent van Gogh favored in priceless masterpieces like Sunflowers, the Yellow House and Wheatfield with Crows is especially sensitive to certain types of light and should be protected to prevent darkening. That's the conclusion of a series of studies , which could help preserve masterpieces by van Gogh and contemporaries like Gauguin, Cezanne and others.

The chrome yellow pigment that renowned post-Impressionist artist Vincent van Gogh favored in priceless masterpieces like Sunflowers, the Yellow House and Wheatfield with Crows is especially sensitive to certain types of light and should be protected to prevent darkening. That's the conclusion of a series of studies in ACS' journal Analytical Chemistry, which could help preserve masterpieces by van Gogh and contemporaries like Gauguin, Cιzanne and others.

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Koen Janssens and colleagues explain that the chrome yellow pigment used by van Gogh and others in the 19th and 20th centuries is especially susceptible to darkening. For example, what was once a vibrant yellow sunflower might appear brown and muddied a century later. In previous research in Analytical Chemistry, the scientists found that this alteration is at least partially due to a change in the oxidation state of the chromium in this type of pigment over time. In the current work, they wanted to determine the color change effects of shining different types of light on the yellow pigment.

They conducted laboratory tests with lab-made pigments that were similar in composition to pigments that van Gogh used, as well as a historical paint sample from Rik Wouters, a Belgian artist active in the late 1800s/early 1900s. Those chrome yellow paint samples that also are rich in sulfates were highly susceptible to browning, especially in regular, UV and blue light. The researchers suggest that to prevent darkening, art collectors and gallery owners should minimize their paintings' exposure to light in the blue/violet/ultra-violet range.

The authors acknowledge funding from ESRF; the Interuniversity Attraction Poles Programme -- Belgian Science Policy; the Research Fund of the University of Antwerp, Belgium; FWO; the European Union FP7 program CHARISMA and MIUR.


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The above story is based on materials provided by American Chemical Society. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal References:

  1. Letizia Monico, Koen H. Janssens, Costanza Miliani, Brunetto Giovanni Brunetti, Manuela Vagnini, Frederik Vanmeert, Gerald Falkenberg, Artem M. Abakumov, Yinggang Lu, He Tian, Johan Verbeeck, Marie Radepont, Marine Cotte, Ella Hendriks, Muriel Geldof, Luuk Van der Loeff, Johanna Salvant, Michel Menu. The Degradation Process of Lead Chromate in paintings by Vincent van Gogh studied by means of Spectromicroscopic methods. Part III: Synthesis, characterization and detection of different crystal forms of the chrome yellow pigment. Analytical Chemistry, 2012; 121010164554003 DOI: 10.1021/ac302158b
  2. Letizia Monico, Koen H. Janssens, Costanza Miliani, Geert Van der Snickt, Brunetto Giovanni Brunetti, Mariangela Cestelli Guidi, Marie Radepont, Marine Cotte. The Degradation Process of Lead Chromate in paintings by Vincent van Gogh studied by means of Spectromicroscopic methods. Part IV: Artificial ageing of model samples of co-precipitates of lead chromate and lead sulfate. Analytical Chemistry, 2012; 121010100308000 DOI: 10.1021/ac3021592
  3. Geert Van der Snickt, Koen Janssens, Joris Dik, Wout De Nolf, Frederik Vanmeert, Jacub Jaroszewicz, Marine Cotte, Gerald Falkenberg, Luuk Van der Loeff. Combined use of Synchrotron Radiation Based Micro-X-ray Fluorescence, Micro-X-ray Diffraction, Micro-X-ray Absorption Near-Edge, and Micro-Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopies for Revealing an Alternative Degradation Pathway of the Pigment Cadmium Ye. Analytical Chemistry, 2012; 121025085122006 DOI: 10.1021/ac3015627

Cite This Page:

American Chemical Society. "Preserving van Gogh's priceless masterpieces." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 November 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121114113807.htm>.
American Chemical Society. (2012, November 14). Preserving van Gogh's priceless masterpieces. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121114113807.htm
American Chemical Society. "Preserving van Gogh's priceless masterpieces." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121114113807.htm (accessed November 23, 2014).

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