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Saturday, June 1 • 10:30am - 11:00am
(Paintings) Experimental and Innovative: Matisse (Paintings) from the Wertheim Collection

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Henri Matisse was one of the great pioneers of modern European painting. His body of work from 1913-17 has been referred to as his most experimental and innovative due to his use of a subdued palette that included the use of black, and a varied working technique comprised of complicated layering due to compositional revisions (D’Alessandro & Elderfield 2010). Two of his paintings from the Fogg Museum’s Wertheim Collection, Geraniums, 1915 and Still-Life with Apples, 1916, were subject to a technical analysis in order to understand the materials, development, and structure of these significant works and to determine whether or not they displayed the characteristics of the 1913-17 period. With the aid of infrared reflectography (IRR), infrared digital photography (IRDP), and x-radiography it was concluded that Geraniums had slight variations from its contour underdrawing while Still-Life with Apples had significant compositional revisions. X-ray fluorescence (XRF), Fourier transform infrared microspectroscopy (FTIR), and scanning electron microscopy energy dispersive spectrometry (SEM-EDS) identified a limited, subdued palette for Still-Life with Apples and a diverse, bright palette for Geraniums. Cross-section analysis with reflected light microscopy (RLM) supported by examination of the painting under magnification revealed complicated paint stratification in both works as well as striking changes in color combinations. A water-soluble red paint containing carbohydrate inclusions was identified in Geraniums in cross-section analysis and FTIR. The carbohydrate component may have been an additive in the paint; however further analysis is necessary to identify its function. The construction sequence of both paintings was hypothesized using digital image manipulation in order to visualize the various stages of the paintings as Matisse may have created them. Based on the technical analysis with support from archival information, it was concluded that Still-Life with Apples displayed characteristics of the 1913-17 period and Geraniums did not exhibit the same characteristics as Still-Life with Apples, and with supportive archival information from Bernheim-Jeune, dates to approximately 1910.

Both paintings had non-original synthetic varnishes noted in the conservation files and identified with FTIR analysis. Varnish removal was proposed due to the poor aging of the synthetic varnishes, which had altered the original aesthetics and surface quality of the paintings. Treatment of Geraniums involved removing the non-original synthetic varnish and returning it to a more original state. While solubility testing was performed on Still-Life with Apples and testing confirmed that brush strokes and more accurate colors would be revealed, curators decided not to proceed with this treatment due to the dramatic change that would occur to the appearance. A second treatment option was chosen including slightly reducing the varnishes with TS-28, filling and inpainting abrasions along the perimeter of the painting, and toning the painted border to match Matisse’s original color. Further conversations with curators are necessary to identify whether or not the date of Geraniums will be changed based upon the collected data and archival information.

*D’Alessandro, Stephanie, Elderfield, John (2010). Matisse: Radical invention 1913-17. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.


Gabriel Dunn

Assisstant Paintings Conservator, Whitten & Proctor Fine Art Conservation
Gabriel is the Assistant Paintings Conservator at Whitten & Proctor Fine Art Conservation in Houston, Texas. She received her MA, with a Certificate of Advanced Study in Conservation in 2011 from Buffalo State College. She received her BA in Art History and Painting, as well as a... Read More →

Saturday June 1, 2013 10:30am - 11:00am EDT
JW Marriott Grand Ballroom 3 & 4 19 S West St Indianapolis, IN 46204

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