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A Preliminary Investigation into the Behavior of Modern Artists’ Oil Paints in a Hot and Humid Climate

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Conservation of Modern Oil Paintings

Abstract

Understanding how modern oil paints are vulnerable to change in tropical conditions is key to developing place-based conservation approaches for paintings produced and located in Southeast Asia. This study is an examination of reference paint films on canvas naturally aged under ambient indoor conditions in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and Melbourne, Australia, representing exposure to tropical and temperate conditions respectively. Paints from two widely available artists’ colourmen, Winsor & Newton and Marie’s, were selected, and their behavior assessed for: titanium-zinc white, earth brown and a red from each range. Physical and chemical differences in the two sets of paints were characterized using optical microscopy, scanning electron microscopy with energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (SEM-EDS), Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (ATR-FTIR), and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS). The results indicated significant differences in the chemical composition and structure of the paints after ageing. Those aged in Kuala Lumpur exhibited a greater degree of hydrolysis and formation of metal carboxylates, while we postulate additional degradation pathways related to the presence of specific additives and the ambient environment. A better understanding of these processes can be used to inform much needed preventive and interventive conservation approaches for museum collections located in tropical climates.

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Acknowledgments

The authors gratefully acknowledge Selina Halim who did initial research around the topic in 2007. Special thanks go to Graham Hutchinson, TrACEES Platform, University of Melbourne, who performed the SEM analysis, and Dr Barry Wood at the Centre for Microscopy and Microanalysis, University of Queensland, for the XPS analysis. This research has been supported by the Australian Research Council, an Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship, and a Melbourne Research Scholarship and PhD Fieldwork Grant from the University of Melbourne.

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Correspondence to Claire Grech .

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Grech, C., Tse, N., Doronila, A., Duan, X., Ahmad, A., Mat Isa, M. (2019). A Preliminary Investigation into the Behavior of Modern Artists’ Oil Paints in a Hot and Humid Climate. In: van den Berg, K., et al. Conservation of Modern Oil Paintings. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-19254-9_33

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