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Thursday, May 30 • 2:30pm - 3:00pm
(Paintings + Research and Technical Studies) Gessoes: Porosity and the Effects of Capillary Action

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Gessoes are a wide class of materials used in the surface preparation of art works. Traditionally the term refers to a white pigment, such as calcium carbonate or calcium sulfate, bound with an adhesive, such as hide glue. For modern artworks, however, the definition has expanded to include many materials that are compositionally very different but designed for the same purpose; that is, to prepare the surface for further work such as painting or gilding. In the field of paintings, gessoes are widely used, both by artists to prepare the support structure of the works and by conservators who commonly use gessoes to fill losses in the pictorial layer.

By their nature, gessoes facilitate the diffusion of fluids by capillary action. The diffusion characteristics of a material can affect many properties, including longevity, removal, and handling. More specifically in the conservation field, liquid diffusion can also cause components found within layers to migrate, which may result in the disruption of the pictorial layer. Such properties may also influence specific treatments, such as inpainting, in this way affecting the final appearance of the work of art.

This paper reports the measurement of the rate of diffusion of common cleaning solvents and inpainting media by attenuated total reflection - Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (ATR-FTIR) for a variety of commercially and lab-prepared gessoes. This includes materials based upon acrylic polymer emulsions, as well as those based on a traditional hide glue binder.


Michael Doutre

Research Technologist, Queen's University
Michael Doutre entered the field of art conservation during his thesis for a Bachelor of Science in chemistry from Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. After finishing his studies he began working as a research technologist in the Conservation Science Laboratory of the... Read More →

Ashley A. Freeman

Managing Collection Environments, Getty Conservation Institute
avatar for Alison Murray

Alison Murray

Associate Professor, Conservation Science, Queen's University, Art Conservation Program
Alison Murray is the Associate Professor of Conservation Science for the Art Conservation Program at Queen's University. She is conducting a research program for characterizing and conserving modern materials, including acrylic paints and grounds; this research integrates information... Read More →

H. F. Shurvell

Adjunct Professor, Queen's University, Art Conservation Program
Emeritus professor of chemistry, Adjunct professor, Art Conservation program, Infrared and XRF analysis

Thursday May 30, 2013 2:30pm - 3:00pm EDT
JW Marriott White River Ballroom F 10 S West St Indianapolis, IN 46204

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