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Wednesday, May 15 • 4:00pm - 4:30pm
(Research & Technical Studies) Examination of Metal Soap Efflorescence on Selected Oil-On-Canvas Studies by Edwin Austin Abbey

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Edwin Austin Abbey (1852-1911) was an American painter and a prominent illustrator who was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania but moved to England in his early thirties. His works include murals for the Boston Public Library and the Pennsylvania State Capitol Building in Harrisburg. He also received the royal commission to paint the coronation of King Edward VII of England. The Yale University Art Gallery (YUAG) collection holds over 600 oil paintings by Abbey. Many are unvarnished or selectively varnished preparatory studies for larger compositions and over half exhibit surface efflorescence. The presence and formation of efflorescence vary within the collection: on some paintings, efflorescence appears in amorphous, apparently random patches while, on other works, it correlates to form, color, or varnishes selectively applied by the artist. This research, initiated to inform conservation treatments in preparation for an upcoming exhibition, aims to identify the morphology and composition of the efflorescence while examining its relationship to both the locally applied varnishes and the materials within the stratigraphy of several paintings executed as part of Abbey’s preparation for his Harrisburg commission. Efflorescence, ground layer, and paint samples from several of Abbey’s oil-on-canvas studies were analyzed with visible and ultraviolet light microscopy, Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR), field emission scanning electron microscopy/energy dispersive spectroscopy (FE-SEM/EDS), gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC/MS), portable x-ray fluorescence spectroscopy (pXRF), and macro x-ray fluorescence spectroscopy (MA-XRF). For example, FE-SEM analysis of surface samples removed from Abbey’s The Spirit of Light (226.7 x 64.5 cm) revealed that the efflorescence appears as plate-like structures (1-2 microns wide and less than 1 micron thick) on the surface of the painting, and EDS showed that the efflorescence is composed primarily of carbon and zinc. FTIR analysis of these samples suggested that the efflorescence was composed of zinc soaps while GC/MS confirmed that the efflorescence contains metal carboxylates and free fatty acids (azelate, palmitate, and stearate). EDS analysis of a cross-section indicated the presence of a double ground containing layers of calcium carbonate and zinc sulfide/barium sulfate. MA-XRF element maps of the entire work were also obtained to see if the location of the efflorescence correlates with particular pigments. Our results for this painting and three studies for the large mural The Passage of the Hours will be presented along with possible explanations for the formation of efflorescence.

Speakers
avatar for Richard R. Hark

Richard R. Hark

Assistant Conservation Scientist, Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage, Yale University
Dr. Richard R. Hark is an assistant conservation scientist at Yale’s Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage (IPCH). He is currently on leave from Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania where he is the H. George Foster Professor of Chemistry. Dr. Hark earned degrees... Read More →

Co-Author
avatar for Aniko Bezur

Aniko Bezur

Professional Associate, Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage, Yale University
Anikó Bezur received a Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering from the University of Arizona. As a doctoral candidate, she completed a internships in at the Arizona State Museum's Conservation Laboratory, the Smithsonian Institution's Museum Conservation Institute, and the Getty... Read More →
avatar for Cynthia Schwarz

Cynthia Schwarz

Associate Conservator of Paintings, Yale University Art Gallery
Cynthia Schwarz is the Associate Conservator of Paintings at the Yale University Art Gallery. Her research interests include the structural treatment of canvas paintings, the conservation of 19th- and 20th-century American murals, and how advances in microbiology can aid in materials... Read More →
KS

Katherine Schilling

Associate Conservation Research Scientist, Yale University
Katherine Schilling is an associate conservation research scientist at the Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage and an associate research scientist and lecturer in the department of Chemical Engineering at Yale University. She earned her PhD in chemical physics at the... Read More →
avatar for Kelsey Wingel

Kelsey Wingel

Postgraduate Associate in Paintings Conservation, Yale University Art Gallery
Kelsey Wingel is a postgraduate associate in paintings conservation at the Yale University Art Gallery. She has spent the past two years concentrating on the technical research and treatment of paintings by the American artist Edwin Austin Abbey. Her research has focused on understanding... Read More →
avatar for Pablo Londero

Pablo Londero

Conservation Scientist, Yale University
Pablo Londero has worked as a conservation scientist for six years. He received his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Rochester in 2005, specializing in quantum and nonlinear optical physics. He has held the position of Research Associate at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and... Read More →


Wednesday May 15, 2019 4:00pm - 4:30pm
Nehantic/Pequot/Paugussett Rooms Sky Convention Center, Mohegan Sun
  • Track Research & Technical Studies
  • Ticketed Included in Main Registration
  • Authors in Publication Order Richard R. Hark, Katherine Schilling, Pablo Londero, Anikó Bezur, Kelsey Wingel, Cynthia Schwarz
  • Abstract ID 18837
  • Tags Edwin Austin Abbey,oil painting,efflorescence,zinc soap,GC/MS,FTIR,MA-XRF,FE-SEM/EDS

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