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Thursday, May 16 • 9:30am - 10:00am
(Paintings) Technical Study of a Painting Attributed to Honoré Daumier at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

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Exit from the Theater in the collection of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art was acquired in 1932 as a work by the French artist Honoré Daumier (1808-1879). By 1958, however, questions arose regarding the authenticity of the painting, an oil on reused panel. In anticipation of a scholarly catalogue of the museum’s French painting collection, a technical study was launched to understand the painting’s palette and overall construction. Over the course of the examination, important observations of technique were uncovered. Replication experiments showed that a lead-based ground, whose stippled texture dominated all radiographic images, could be reproduced by application with a printmaker’s brayer. Earlier research by Aviva Burnstock and William Bradford documented Daumier’s tendency to incorporate tools and materials from drawing and printmaking into his painting process. Similar textured grounds have now been identified on two unquestioned works on panel, revealing another use of a printmaking tool by this artist. Scanning electron microscopy with elemental analysis by energy dispersive X-ray spectrometry, FTIR, and polarized light microscopy of dispersed pigment particles enabled identification of the Nelson-Atkins painting’s limited palette and confirmed that the pigment mixtures are consistent with those published in other Daumier studies. Pigments from an earlier composition, accessible at the outer edges, are also compatible with the dates in which Daumier was painting. In an effort to better visualize the underlying landscape, XRF elemental mapping was conducted at the Cornell High Energy Synchrotron Source (CHESS) under conditions optimized to overcome the interference of the intervening lead ground. The resulting image of the earlier landscape, based upon elemental maps and including trace species not previously known to be part of the palette, connects the landscape to British expedition sketches subsequently engraved for publication. It is unlikely that Daumier painted this underlying landscape, but he is known to have repurposed the discarded canvas of another artist. The engravers involved with the expedition publication in Paris were among Daumier’s professional circle, offering plausible avenues by which Daumier, who was struggling financially, may have acquired the wooden panel. Although authenticity questions remain unresolved for many painted works attributed to Honoré Daumier, this study has revealed important new findings that link Exit from the Theater to securely accepted works by Daumier.

avatar for Mary Schafer-[PA]

Mary Schafer-[PA]

Conservator of Paintings, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
Mary Schafer is Conservator of Paintings and Manager of the Mellon Conservation Science Endowment at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri. She received her M.A. in Painting Conservation from the State University of New York, College at Buffalo. In addition to activities... Read More →

avatar for Aimee Marcereau DeGalan

Aimee Marcereau DeGalan

Senior Curator of European Arts, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
Aimee Marcereau DeGalan serves as the Louis L. and Adelaide C. Ward Senior Curator of European Arts. A specialist in British and French 18th and 19th-century art, Marcereau DeGalan received her PhD in Art History from Case Western Reserve University. Her interest in the intersection... Read More →
avatar for Arthur Woll

Arthur Woll

Senior Research Associate, Cornell Energy Synchrotron Source, Cornell University
Arthur Woll received his BA in Physics from Grinnell College in 1993 and PhD in Applied Physics from Cornell in 2000. Since 2002 he has served as a Senior Research Associate at the Cornell High Energy Synchrotron Source (CHESS), functioning as a beamline scientist for three experimental... Read More →

John Twilley

Independent Conservation Scientist, Independent
John Twilley has conducted scientific research in art conservation since 1973. He served as Conservation Scientist of the J. Paul Getty Museum from 1977-78. In 1979 he returned to analytical work in microelectronics and began teaching within the Graduate Program in Historic Resources... Read More →
avatar for Louisa Smieska

Louisa Smieska

Staff Scientist, Cornell Energy Synchrotron Source, Cornell University
Louisa Smieska received her BA in Chemistry and Fine Arts from Hamilton College in 2009 and her PhD in Materials Chemistry from Cornell University in 2015. She joined the Cornell High Energy Synchrotron Source as a staff scientist in 2017, where she supports x-ray fluorescence imaging... Read More →

Thursday May 16, 2019 9:30am - 10:00am EDT
Salon B2, Uncas Ballroom
  Specialty Session, Paintings
  • Track Paintings
  • Ticketed Included in Main Registration
  • Authors in Publication Order Mary Schafer, John Twilley, Louisa Smieska, Arthur Woll, Aimee Marcereau DeGalan
  • Abstract ID 18802
  • Tags Honoré Daumier,XRF elemental mapping,attribution,