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Thursday, 29 October 2015 11:49

Europe Lifts Ban on Cadmium Pigment

The future is bright for artists across Europe after politicians announced October 28, they will not enforce a Europe-wide ban on cadmium pigment. The U-turn came following extensive public consultation with artists and paint-makers, who objected to a palette without the golden yellows, fiery oranges and deep maroons created from cadmium and used by masters such as Monet, Cézanne and Munch since the 1840s.

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It was a heart-stopping moment when the conservator Alice Tate-Harte gently cleaned off centuries of thick black paint and grime and uncovered square Roman letters spelling out the name TITIANUS. The reputation of the bare-breasted young woman in the painting was instantly transformed: she has turned out to be a genuine work by one of the most revered masters of European painting, not a much later imitation of his style.

“It was a once-in-a-career moment, and there was nobody else in the conservation studio to share it – I had to ring my husband to have somebody to tell,” she recalled.

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Vincent van Gogh’s reds have been turning white, but the exact reason why has remained unclear. Research published last month out of Belgium has identified a rare lead mineral in his paint as the missing link.

As reported this week by Matthew Gunther at the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Chemistry World, a team at the University of Antwerp examined a microscopic sample of van Gogh’s “Wheat Stack Under a Cloudy Sky” (“Heuschober an einem Regentag”) from 1889 at the Kröller-Müller Museum using X-ray powder diffraction tomography, basically focusing beams to reveal crystalline compounds.

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The Van Gogh Museum has is received its millionth visitor for 2014. The lucky visitor, Mrs. van Waveren from Zwaag, received a bouquet of sunflowers an a voucher for ten gallons of decorative paint after entering the museum. 

As compared with recent years, more attendees are stopping by the Amsterdam museum, which is expecting the rate of visitors to keep rising. Last year saw a total of 1.4 million people pass through the museum’s doors.

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Nothing quite stirs the emotions like walking into a gallery to see an original masterpiece.

Seeing that same piece on a digital screen may not have the same effect until now, but one Spanish group claims iPad art-viewing could give a greater insight than you might think.

Madrid’s famous gallery, Museo del Prado, has released an iOS app that allows you to peel away layers of famous paintings to uncover the intimate, and often frightening, secrets lurking beneath.

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A Danish phD thesis revealed that a common preservation method may cause more harm than good to artworks. The study showed that when an oil painting treated with the once-popular wax-resin lining is exposed to relative humidity over 60 percent there is a good chance that it will shrink, compressing the paint and causing it to flake off. The revelation was part of Cecil Krarup Andersen’s thesis, which was recently defended at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts School of Conservation.

During the 20th century the “lining” technique was popular among conservators and used to protect well-known masterpieces including works by Rembrandt and Vincent van Gogh while traveling for loan exhibitions. For her thesis Lined canvas paintings: Mechanical properties and structural response to fluctuating relative humidity, Andersen studied the Danish national gallery's collection of Danish Golden Age paintings and examined the difference in moisture sensibility before and after wax-resin lining.

The wax-resin technique became popular during the 1960s but was obsolete by the 1970s since the method tended to darken paintings’ colors. However, the discovery of relative humidity’s effect on wax-resin lined canvases is a new finding. While the majority of museums maintain an approximate relative humidity of 50 percent, malfunctioning climate controls and flooding could leave some of the finest works in the canon of art in perilous danger.

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The Tate Modern in London has announced that they will present the largest exhibition of Henri Matisse’s (1869-1954) late works. Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs will feature 120 of the artist’s paper cut-outs made between 1943 and 1954, when his health was diminishing and he found himself unable to paint.

Matisse’s first cut-outs were made between 1943 and 1947 and were presented together in Jazz 1947, a book of 20 plates. Copies of the book along with text handwritten by Matisse will be shown alongside the original compositions. Other highlights from the exhibition include the Tate’s own The Snail, the Museum of Modern Art’s Memory of Oceania, and the National Gallery of Art’s Large Composition with Masks. The exhibition will stand as a testament to the importance of the final chapter in Matisse’s long and influential career.

Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs will be on view from April 17, 2014 though September 7, 2014.

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Christie’s will present a seminal painting by Jackson Pollock (1912-1956) during their Contemporary Art Evening Auction on May 15, 2013. Created during Pollock’s most important artistic period, Number 19 (1948) is the most significant painting by the artist to appear at auction in 20 years.

One of Pollock’s famous drip paintings, Number 19 features layer upon layer of swirling silver, black, and white paint punctuated by pops of red and green. The movement of the paint mimics the movement of Pollock’s hand, creating a unique connection between the artist and the viewer.

From 1947 to 1950 Pollock was exceptionally prolific as an artist. It was during this time that he revolutionized abstract painting with his gestural drip paintings. 1948 is considered the year that Pollock truly mastered the technique, exhibiting more control over the thinned enamel paint he poured and dripped onto unprimed surfaces.

Number 19, which is an exemplary work from this remarkable period in Pollock’s career, is expected to garner anywhere form $25 million to $35 million at auction.      

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Tuesday, 04 December 2012 13:05

Copy of Lost Da Vinci Masterwork Found

A division of the Italian police department that specializes in art thefts has located a 400-year-old copy of a lost Leonardo da Vinci fresco. Depicting the Battle of Anghiari, the masterpiece was never finished.

The copy, widely known as the Tavola Doria, once adorned a wall of Florence’s city hall, the Palazzo Vecchio, and illustrates a historic battle between Florence and Milan that took place in 1440. It is believed that da Vinci experimented with various fresco-painting techniques before he started work on the battle scene in 1503. Despite his efforts, the paints began to drip and da Vinci was never able to finish the fresco. Over the next few years, the piece deteriorated and the Italian painter, Giorgio Vasari, was commissioned to paint over what was left of the incomplete fresco.

Since the unfinished da Vinci painting no longer exists, copies of the lost artwork are extremely important to art historians and scholars. This particular copy, painted on a small wooden panel, was last seen in public 73 years ago at a Leonardo da Vinci exhibition held in Milan on the eve of World War II. After the exhibition, the work disappeared.

Experts have since determined that the panel was stolen from its owners in Naples and ended up in the hands of a Swiss art dealer. The work was sent to Germany for restoration in the 1960s, made a brief appearance in the 1970s at an art gallery in New York, and by the 1990s was the property of a wealthy Japanese art collector.

Finally back in Italy, the Tavola Doria will be on view at Florence’s Uffizi Gallery during 2013. The work will then spend four years in Japan as part of a loan agreement worked out with the Fuji Art Museum in Tokyo, where it was last exhibited.

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In the 1970s a coat of varnish obscured Sea Change (1947), an important work by Jackson Pollack that signaled his transition famous drip technique. The Seattle Museum of Art has tackled the restoration of Sea Change, which is a cornerstone of the institution’s collection.

Efforts appear to be going well as reporters and photographers were invited to the museum on Tuesday, November 27, to see the progress firsthand. Led by the museum’s chief conservator, Nicholas Dorman, the undertaking is complicated due to the multiple types of media used by Pollack and the sheer depth of the painting’s surface. Measuring approximately 4 x 5 feet, Sea Change consists of many layers including several types of paint (oil, house and commercial, early acrylic), a white oil base, aluminum paint drips, and imbedded gravel.

In order to preserve the original painting, Dorman had to become as familiar as possible with the work underneath the layer of old varnish. He carefully studied old X-rays of the painting as well as photographs of Pollack at work in order to learn more about the composition itself.

Bank of America’s Art Conservation Project is funding the restoration work on Sea Change. Launched in 2010, the initiative has provided about $2 million to the conservation of art and artifacts of cultural and historical value around the world.

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