Fairs Conservation USA

Conserving works made with synthetic paints

Paintings by Still, Pollock and Riley restored

Conservators work on Still’s painting, 1951–No.2 (PH–240)

Clyfford Still: The American Abstract Expressionist Clyfford Still is one of the latest artists to be put under the Getty Conservation Institute's (GCI's) microscope. As part of its Modern Paints project, the institute teamed up with the artist's estate, the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC, and the Artex Conservation Laboratory to analyse several key works representative of Still's oeuvre. Although the artist is known to have used traditional paints, especially oils, scholars have long wondered whether he added the oils to hand-ground pigments (these types of pigments were found in his studio after his death) or to tube paints. The findings are due to be published in mid-2014 in the GCI's series “The Artist's Materials”. Still joins good company as other artists in the series includes Willem de Kooning and Lucio Fontana.

Jackson Pollock: One of Jackson Pollock's largest paintings, One: Number 31, 1950 , is now back on display at New York's Museum of Modern Art after a nine-month project to clean and examine the work “inch by inch”. The museum's chief conservator, James Coddington, kept the public abreast of the project in posts on MoMA's Inside/Out blog. The drip patterns of this 9ft x 17ft painting show that Pollock applied paint while the canvas was on the floor as well as when it was popped up. The examination also revealed that some paint had been applied after the artist's death in 1956—possibly during a mid-1960s restoration. This was removed during the cleaning process. Conservators will soon begin work on another painting by Pollock, Number 1A, 1948. The project is being sponsored by Bank of America Merrill Lynch as part of its art conservation grant programme.

Bridget Riley: To a Summer's Day, 1980, an acrylic on linen work by the British artist Bridget Riley is currently in the Tate's conservation studio. The composition consists of a series of undulating wave patterns in pink, lilac, blue and ochre yellow stripes set on a white background. Conservators expect to use a dry cleaning process to remove the thin veil of dirt that has accumulated on the painting's surface in recent months. Although this will be a minimal treatment, cleaning is required as the work's optical illusion depends upon the stark contrast between the white and the coloured stripes.


To a Summer's Day, 1980, an acrylic on linen work by the British artist Bridget Riley is currently in the Tate's conservation studio
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