Analytical Chemistry in the Art World
Full course description
Over the last decades the field of conservation science has evolved in parallel with that of forensic science. Currently the scientific investigation of art works plays an increasingly important role in the understanding and interpretation of artist materials and artistic expression. Many non-destructive (NDT) and non-invasive analytical techniques are used, hand-in-hand with more traditional photographic methods, for the identification and detection of fakes and forgery. These same techniques are also indispensable in the decision-making processes used by conservators to determine treatment protocols for individual art works. Modern instrumental techniques make it possible to extract a whole array of ‘big data’ from a ‘grain of original material’. This skills training module is intended to be a first practical introduction to this highly interesting, broad and quickly expanding field. The course will take place predominately in the conservation studios of the Stichting Restauratie Atelier Limburg (SRAL) and the training will be mainly given by the SRAL staff. Actual artworks, often undergoing conservation treatment, will provide the source material for study. Laboratory work will take place both at the SRAL (Maastricht) and at Chemelot.
After a general introduction, the group will be divided into small subgroups that will work on the different practical and research problems, such as:
- the analysis of paint cross-sections from (authentic) paintings, using different analytical techniques for the identification of pigments, binding materials, varnishes, etc.
- the complex synthesis of an old pigment, via different routes, followed by the analytical identification of the different colourful reaction products.
- the analysis of several pigments and resins used in the past.
A large number of different techniques will be employed, including: optical and UV microscopy, UV spectroscopy, FTIR, SEM/EDX, etc. The difficulty in interpreting results and the relevance of these outcomes for the scientific research and investigation of fine art paintings (such as dating, proof of authenticity, attribution, etc) will be discussed. Relevant literature on artists’ materials and research methods will be studied and used to support findings.
- To become acquainted with various analytical techniques used for the investigation of paintings and other works of art, and of artists’ materials.
- To obtain practical experience with some of these techniques.
- To answer research questions connected to works of art and artists’ materials.
- To further develop hands-on experience with the laboratory practices of discovering fraud and forgery, as well as of supporting fine arts conservation.
- CHE2001 Organic chemistry
- INT3010 Science and the Visual Arts: Conservation and its Histories
Selected articles and chapters will be provided to the students.