Conservation image

In addition to caring for the paintings in the collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Paintings Conservation Department has an active program partnering with other institutions to study and restore major works of art from their collections. Working in close collaboration with conservators and curators from the Getty Museum, as well as partner institutions, CRL scientists address questions regarding the composition of the materials used by the artist or previous conservators, together with the physical process and sequence of painting. Answers to these questions may be found through the examination of tiny samples taken from a painting and prepared as cross-sections to reveal the build-up of successive layers (i.e., stratigraphy).

Another common area of study involves changes which may have occurred in the image or the physical structure of the painting, the understanding of which may help conservators determine the best course of treatment. Scientific analysis of cross-sections typically involves microscopic visual examination coupled with elemental analysis by scanning electron microscopy with energy dispersive spectroscopy (SEM-EDS). Analysis of organic materials (such as binders and varnishes) may be carried out using techniques such as GC-MS or FTIR.

Case Study: The Working Methods of Degas: The Milliners (4 pp., PDF, 268KB)

Case Study: Technical Studies of Exotic Animal Portraits by Jean-Baptiste Oudry (10pp., PDF, 1.2MB)

Last updated: June 2009