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

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

There is growing uncertainty over whether West’s response to ISIS is adequate More

China Crackdown on Dual Citizens Causes Concern

New policy encourages reporting people who obtain citizenship in another country, but retain Chinese citizenship; move spurs sharp debate More

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

Losing ground to Islamic State fighters, Syria's government says it is ready to cooperate with international community More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?i
X
Henry Ridgwell
August 29, 2014 12:26 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Pachyderms Play Polo to Raise Money for Elephants

Polo, the ancient team competition typically played on horseback, is known as the “sport of kings.” However, the royal version for one annual event in Thailand swaps the horse for the kingdom’s national symbol - the elephant. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Samut Prakan reports that the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament is all for a good cause.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Beyond Category

Pianist Myra Melford’s new CD “Life Carries Me This Way” features solo piano interpretations of drawings by modern artist Don Reich. She performs songs from the album, talks about turning art into music, and joins host Eric Felten in some Chicago boogie-woogie on "Beyond Category."