Analyzing and Understanding Paint Composition

Paints used by artists for outdoor sculpture or by those repainting these works are often industrial and automotive paints developed for different applications. These paints have a very different chemistry than traditional artist's paints and come in an enormous array of formulations. While a vast body of knowledge is available in the industry, it has not been so far transferred to conservators.

It is important to develop a broad understanding of the main categories of industrial paints that can be used for outdoor painted sculpture, and how the paint's composition relates to the properties and aging behaviors of these paints.

Building on expertise developed through the GCI's Modern Paints project to identify acrylic, modern oils, alkyds, and PVAs, the GCI is developing analytical protocols specifically adapted to paints used for outdoor painted sculptures, especially polyurethane-based paints, and building analytical libraries to more accurately identify them.

Banner image: View of the South Fields, Storm King Art Center with works by Mark di Suvero: Pyramidion 1987/1998; Beethoven's Quartet, 2003, For Chris, 1991 lent by the artist and Spacetime C.C., New York. Mon Père, Mon Père, 1973-75; Mother Peace, 1969-1970; and; Jambalaya, 2002-2006, Gift of the Ralph E. Ogden Foundation, Inc., collection of Storm King Art Center, Mountainville, New York. Art: © Mark di Suvero. Photo: Jerry L. Thompson, reproduced courtesy the artist and Storm King Art Center; © Storm King Art Center, Mountainville, New York.

Page updated: January 2015