A history of early scientific examination and analysis of painting materials ca. 1780 to the mid-twentieth century

Authored by: Jilleen Nadolny

Conservation of Easel Paintings

Print publication date:  November  2020
Online publication date:  November  2020

Print ISBN: 9780367023799
eBook ISBN: 9780429399916
Adobe ISBN:


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It is now impossible to imagine the modern field of paintings conservation without the third leg of George Stout’s ‘three-legged stool’. Stout’s metaphor for the profession highlighted the interdisciplinary need for practice to be allied with art history and science. The integration of science and analysis with craft and connoisseurship has not always been an easy process, although in hindsight, it has been a virtually inevitable one; our industrialised society values objectivity and order. As the craft of restoration became the profession of conservation, analytical results and scientific methodology have provided its practitioners with a foundation on which to build. This foundation is intrinsically precarious, however. Successful analysis of a painting is a balancing act between interpretation – requiring trained eyes, skilled hands, and a healthy respect for the uniqueness of each object – and scientific acumen.

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