Dr. Jennifer Mass, Senior Scientist and Laboratory Director, Scientific Research and Analysis Laboratory, Winterthur Museum and Art Conservation Department, University of Delaware, presents a lecture titled "The Synchrotron and the Masterpiece: Uncovering Vanishing Images in Paintings Using X-Ray Fluorescence and Absorption Spectroscopies."
The scientific analysis of objects of art is carried out to address questions about a work's authenticity, construction, state of preservation and mechanisms of degradation. Given the irreplaceable nature of the works studies, this research must be conducted either totally nondestructively or on microsamples alone.
In the past few years, there has been a growing awareness of the alteration/color change of cadmium yellow pigments in the works of Henri Matisse and his contemporaries, including Vincent Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Edvard Munch and Georges Seurat.
Evidence for the alteration of the yellow paints in Henri Matisse's Le Bonheur de vivre (1905-6, The Barnes Foundation) has been observed since the 1990s. Changes in this iconic work of Matisse's Fauvist period include fading, darkening and flaking of the yellow paints. This is visible below, compared to an unaltered final oil sketch of the painting from the Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco.