News / Arts & Entertainment

Science Benefits Art Preservation

Science Benefits Art Preservationi
X
September 30, 2013 7:55 PM
Art is considered part of the legacy of humankind that must be treasured and preserved. That can be a challenge in cities where temperature and humidity fluctuate over the course of the year. One such city, home to a large number of artistic masterpieces, is Houston, where VOA's Greg Flakus prepared this report on the science and craft of art conservation.
Greg Flakus
Art is considered part of the legacy of humankind that must be treasured and preserved. That can be a challenge in cities where temperature and humidity fluctuate over the course of the year. One such city, home to a large number of artistic masterpieces, is Houston, Texas.  

A great artist can dazzle us with images that are, when deconstructed, nothing more than brush strokes applied over a taut piece of canvas.

But when paintings age and start to crack, conservators like Melissa Gardner do some touching up.

"I don't think of it so much as I am adding myself to the painting as I am just restoring, putting back, what the artist intended to be there," she said.

The director of conservation at The Museum of Fine Arts Houston, David Bomford, says restoration can sometimes involve removing discolored paint applied in past restorations.

"A present-day restorer will very carefully, within the confines of the damage, touch in those losses with modern paints that do not discolor," he said.

Modern technology can help identify a work of art when its authenticity is in question.

Earlier this month, this painting, found in someone's attic in Europe, was presented in Amsterdam as a newly discovered work by Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh called "Sunset at Montmajour."

It was authenticated by comparing it with this painting by Van Gogh, "The Rocks," which is owned by The Museum of Fine Arts Houston.

Bomford agreed to help the Van Gogh Museum in the Netherlands compare the two.

"We took paint samples, we looked at the materials of the painting, and they did the same to their picture," he said.

More assistance came from Rice University Professor Don Johnson, who used special imaging tests to compare the threads in each canvas.

The tests showed , not only was this painting similar to the one in Europe but, that they came from the same bolt of canvas.

Science continues to provide conservationists with tools so they can see inside a work of art and devise better approaches to repair.

It's a never-ending job.  In addition to the museum's collection of some 1,700 paintings, there are sculptures, furniture and elaborately carved and gilded picture frames, like this one, that frequently need maintenance.

Works not on display are kept in climate-controlled storage rooms, insulated to guard against even a power outage during a hurricane, says Bomford.

"If these things are going to be preserved for future generations, it needs the expertise of people working in the conservation labs of great museums to keep these things alive," he said.

It's all for the benefit of art lovers everywhere.

You May Like

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Soul Lounge

"Soul Lounge" host Shawna Renee catches up with soul singer and songwriter Russell Taylor to hear what he’s been up to since winning the VH1 "You Oughta Know" title in 2013. She also convinces him to share a few songs from his album "War of Hearts."