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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Mystery Behind Fading Van Goghs Solved

Banks of the Seine, by Vincent Van Gogh Banks of the Seine, by Vincent Van Gogh Van Goh Museum

Walking the halls of one of the world's great art museums, it's easy to regard familiar classic paintings as eternal and unchanging. But this is not the case. Paintings are a mix not only of color but of chemistry-and chemistry changes. In some of Vincent van Gogh's works, the striking, sunny yellows have faded and turned brownish, robbing the Dutch master's art of some of its trademark intensity. So a European team of scientists decided to find out exactly what was happening on those canvases.
Using sophisticated X-ray machines, they discovered the chemical reaction to blame - one never before observed in paint. Ironically, van Gogh's decision to use a lighter shade of yellow paint mixed with white is responsible for the unintended darkening, according to a study published online Monday in the journal Analytical Chemistry.

Vincent loved yellow. In particular, he loved chrome yellow, a 19th century invention that shone brighter than previously available hues of paint. Art preservationists have known that the lead-based paint fades under intense sunlight, so they've done what they can to keep van Goghs and similar works out of intense light. What's curious about his paintings, however, is that some yellows have faded while others have not.

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