Before the twentieth century, science, art history, and painting restoration were fields that had little to do with each other, but beginning in the 1930s technological advances led to the scientific examination of paintings, enabling a collaborative approach to research. This model continues to provide the most valuable insights into a painting’s history, condition, and the creative process by which it was made, information that is crucial to conservators in deciding on a course of treatment. An overview of painting examination tools will be presented, with brief discussions of UV light and microscope examination, imaging techniques such as X-radiography and infrared reflectography, and several forms of instrumental analysis used to characterize painting materials. A number of case studies will illustrate how these tools of science enable a better understanding of paintings and how it can influence their conservation treatment.
Carol Christensen received a MS in painting conservation from a collaborative graduate program at the Winterthur Museum and the University of Delaware. She received a BA in art history at Skidmore College. In 1983 as a Fulbright scholar she studied German restoration techniques at the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin. She is a Professional Associate of the American Institute of Conservation, where she previously served as the project chair for the painting specialty group catalogs and is a past editor of the AIC Newsletter. She has published on the materials and technique of a wide range of Old Master painters, including Raphael, Frans Hals, Van Dyck, Gainsborough and lesser known Early Netherlandish and Sienese Renaissance artists. She has a special interest in the works of Paul Gauguin, whose technique she has discussed in several past and forthcoming articles. Since 1981 she has worked at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, where she is Senior Painting Conservator, and she also runs a private painting conservation studio in Alexandria.