Charting the Development of Oil-Based Enamel Paints Through the Correlation of Historical Paint Technology Manuals with Scientific Analysis

  • Maria KokkoriEmail author
  • Francesca Casadio
  • Ken Sutherland
  • Marc Vermeulen


This paper presents an overview of developments in oil-based enamel paint technology in the first half of the twentieth century and discusses the selection of ingredients that had a significant impact on the properties of the paints: pigments, extenders, driers, oils and resins. A review of period literature published in French and English is complemented by analysis of historical oil-based Ripolin enamel paint samples produced in France in the years 1910–1950 and a small selection of artists’ paint tubes of the same era from the Art Institute of Chicago’s reference collection. A range of analytical techniques including x-ray fluorescence spectroscopy (XRF), Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR), pyrolysis gas chromatography-mass spectrometry with thermally-assisted hydrolysis and methylation (THM-Py-GCMS), scanning electron microscopy coupled with energy dispersive x-ray spectroscopy (SEM-EDX) and thermogravimetric analysis have been used for the characterisation of the paint samples.


Oil-based enamel paints Paint technology Ripolin 



The authors thank Frank Zuccari, Jaap Boon, Inge Fiedler, Kim Muir, and the staff of the Ryerson & Burnham Libraries at the Art Institute of Chicago. SEM-EDX work was performed at the Electron Probe Instrumentation Center (EPIC) facility of the Northwestern University Atomic and Nanoscale Characterization Experimental Center (NUANCE). NUANCE Center is supported by the NSF funded Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center (NSF-NSEC), and Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (NSF-MRSEC), Keck Foundation, the State of Illinois, and Northwestern University. The financial support of the Stockman Family Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and Grainger Foundation is also gratefully acknowledged.


  1. Andés LE (1901) Drying oils, boiled oil, and solid and liquid driers. A practical work for manufacturers of oils, varnishes, printing inks, oil-cloth and linoleum, oil-cakes, paints, etc. Scott, Greenwood, London, pp 18–20Google Scholar
  2. Bohannon (1922) Present-day methods of varnish manufacture. The Decorator (January 22), p 237Google Scholar
  3. Casadio F, Gautier G (2011) Picasso at work: making the case for a scientific re-evaluation of the materials of the Antibes cycle. In: Raeburn M, Radeuil N (eds) Picasso express. Musee Picasso, Antibes, pp 37–63 (French), pp 135–150 (English)Google Scholar
  4. Casadio F, Rose V (2013) High-resolution fluorescence mapping of impurities in historical zinc oxide pigments: hard X-ray nanoprobe applications to the paints of Pablo Picasso. Appl Phys A 111(1):1–8CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Casadio F, Miliani C, Rosi F, Romani A, Anselmi C, Brunetti B, Sgamellotti A, Andral J, Gautier G (2013) Non-invasive in situ investigation of the Picasso paintings in Antibes: new insights into technique, condition and chronological sequence. J Am Inst Conserv 52(3):184–204CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Chatfield HW (1947) Varnish constituents. L. Hill, London, p 11Google Scholar
  7. Cruickshank Smith J (1915) The manufacture of paint: a practical handbook for paint manufacturers, merchants, and painters. Scott, Greenwood & Son, London, pp 206–231Google Scholar
  8. Damitz FM, Murphy JA, Mattiello JJ (1943) Varnishes. In: Mattiello JJ (ed) Protective and decorative coatings, vol 3. Wiley, New York, pp 199–206Google Scholar
  9. Eide AC, Depew HA (1936) Evaluation of zinc oxide for paint. Am Paint J (April 13) 20(27):7–9; 20(28):51–56Google Scholar
  10. Gautier G, Bezur A, Muir K, Casadio F, Fiedler I (2009) Chemical fingerprinting of ready-mixed house paints of relevance to artistic production in the first half of the twentieth century. Appl Spectrosc 63:597–603CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Horton Sabin A (1904) The industrial and artistic technology of paint and varnish. Wiley, New York, pp 140–145Google Scholar
  12. Jennings AS (1919) Paints and varnishes. Pitman & Sons, London, pp 5–11Google Scholar
  13. Jolly VG (1930) Oil varnishes: their manufacture, properties, and defects. The Decorator (January), pp 522–526Google Scholar
  14. Kokkori M, Sutherland K, Boon JJ, Vermeulen M, Casadio F (2013) Synergistic use of THM-Py-GCMS, DTMS, ESI-MS and vibrational spectroscopy for the characterisation of the organic fraction of modern house paints. Technart 2013 Conference. Analytical Spectroscopy in Art and Archaeology, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (in preparation)Google Scholar
  15. Kokkori M, Casadio F, Boon JJ (2014) A complete study of early 20th century oil-based enamel paints: Integrating industrial technical literature and analytical data. In ICOM-CC 17th Triennial Conference Preprints, Melbourne, 15 -19 September 2014, ed. J. Bridgland, art. 0101, 8 pp. Paris: International Council of Museums. (ISBN 978-92-9012-410-8)Google Scholar
  16. Labordere P, Anstett R (1913) Notes on the testing of anti-corrosion paints. Chem Eng XVII(1):5Google Scholar
  17. Licata FJ (1933) Properties and uses of aluminum in the paint and varnish industry. Official Dig Federation Paint Varnish Prod Clubs 5:160Google Scholar
  18. Mcmillan G, Casadio F, Fiedler I, Sorano-Stedman V (2013) An investigation into Kandinsky’s use of Ripolin in his paintings after 1930. J Am Inst Conserv 52(4)Google Scholar
  19. Muir K, Gautier G, Casadio F, Villa A (2011) Interdisciplinary investigation of early house paints: Picasso, Picabia and their “Ripolin” paintings. In: Bridgland J (ed) ICOM Committee for Conservation preprints (CD-ROM), 16th Triennial Meeting Lisbon. Lisbon: Critério-Artes Graficas, Lda. 10Google Scholar
  20. Nelson HA (1935a) Study of paint durability based on some physical properties of the pigments used. Official Dig J Paint Tech Eng Federation Paint Varnish Prod Clubs (January) 142:7–14Google Scholar
  21. Nelson HA (1935b) Zinc sulfide pigments for interior paints. Official Dig J Paint Tech Eng Federation Paint Varnish Prod Clubs 7:177Google Scholar
  22. Nelson HA (1940) The versatile paint-making properties of zinc oxide. New Jersey Zinc Company, New York, pp 13–33Google Scholar
  23. Noble P, Boon JJ (2007) Metal soap degradation of oil paintings: aggregates, increased transparency and efflorescence. In: Helen Mar Parkin (ed) AIC paintings specialty group postprints: papers pres. at the 34th annual meeting of the AIC of Historic & Artistic Works providence, Rhode Island, 16–19 June 2006. AIC, Washington, DC, pp 1–15Google Scholar
  24. Nylen P (1965) Modern surface coatings: a text-book of the chemistry and technology of paints, varnishes, and lacquers. Interscience, New York, pp 85–91Google Scholar
  25. Osmond G, Boon JJ, Puscar L, Drennar J (2012) Metal stearates distributions in modern artists’ oil paints: surface and cross sectional investigation of reference paint films using conventional and synchrotron infrared microspectroscopy. Appl Spectrosc 66(10):1136–1144CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Parker DH (1943) Exterior trim paints. In: Mattiello J (ed) Protective and decorative coatings, vol 3. Wiley, New York, pp 315–323Google Scholar
  27. Pickett CF (1939) Factors influencing initial gloss and gloss retention of paint films. Official Dig J Paint Tech Eng Federation Paint Varnish Prod Clubs (June) 187:310–319Google Scholar
  28. Sabin AH (1927) The industrial and artistic technology of paint and varnish. Chapman & Hall, London, pp 194–205Google Scholar
  29. Standeven H (2011) House paints 1900–1960: history and use. Getty Conservation Institute, Los AngelesGoogle Scholar
  30. Trott LH (1928) Zinc oxide and its application to paint. New Jersey Zinc Company, New York, pp 3–19Google Scholar
  31. Truelove RH (1922) Oils, pigments, paints, varnishes, etc. Pitman & Sons, London, pp 57–61Google Scholar
  32. Uebele CL (1913) Paint making and colour grinding. Trade Papers, London, Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maria Kokkori
    • 1
    Email author
  • Francesca Casadio
    • 1
  • Ken Sutherland
    • 1
  • Marc Vermeulen
    • 2
  1. 1.The Art Institute of ChicagoChicagoUSA
  2. 2.IRPA-KIK Royal Institute for Cultural HeritageBrusselsBelgium

Personalised recommendations