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Saturday, June 2 • 2:30pm - 3:00pm
(Research and Technical Studies) Colors of Jazz: Identification of the colorants in Henri Matisse gouaches using a noninvasive approach

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In the last two decades of his extraordinary career, Henri Matisse created a remarkable body of work known as the Cut-Outs. He worked intensively with scissors and sheets of papers painted with vibrant gouaches, cutting shapes that he would then assemble to recreate lively figurative or abstract compositions. One of the earliest and most emblematic works of that period is the Jazz illustrated book published in 1947 by Tériade, a renowned editor of artist books in Paris. Matisse began creating the twenty circus themed cut-outs to be used as maquettes for the book in 1943. He insisted the vibrant colors of the cut-outs should be translated into the printed book, and this was ultimately achieved by the printer Vairel using Linel gouaches and the pochoir printing process. Hardly any information has been reported or published however about the composition of these particular gouaches or their properties, in particular their lightfastness; even though the artist himself was aware of the fragility of some of the colors like the pinks and the violets. In the preparation stages of a major exhibition at MoMA in 2014 dedicated to Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs, the conservation department received the generous donation of a “reference set” of seventy nine samples taken from leftovers of original painted papers preserved by the artist’s family and representing presumably the full range of colors he used. This set of reference samples was submitted to an exhaustive analysis to identify and characterize all the colorants present, to evaluate their lightfastness by microfading, and to build a reference library of spectral fingerprints acquired by XRF, FTIR, Raman, FT-Raman, SERS, ATR-FTIR, micro-FTIR, reflectance-FTIR and reflectance visible spectrophotometry. This study set is also being used to devise and validate a noninvasive protocol for the identification of the colorants in actual Cut-Outs. The current noninvasive methodology was applied to examine the nineteen different colors in the Jazz portfolio of twenty pochoirs in the MoMA collection. Most of the colorants present were identified successfully based on species or elemental markers detected by reflectance-FTIR, XRF analysis and spectrophotometry. Obtained results nevertheless reveal that a few of the colors that are repeated across different plates have the same tonality, but contain different colorants, suggesting that gouaches from different manufacturers were potentially used. Moreover, not all the gouaches in the Jazz portfolio could be matched to samples in the reference set, implying that it is incomplete. The reference spectral libraries compiled so far is therefore being expanded by studying other Cut-Outs in the MoMA collection and in other institutions, and by analyzing pure gouaches taken from paint tubes or paint brochures from the same period.

Authors in Publication Order: Ana  Martins, Tiffany Tang,  Abedalnour Haddad 

avatar for Ana Martins

Ana Martins

Conservation Scientist, MoMA
Ana Martins is a Conservation Scientist working in the MoMA Conservation Department since 2008. She has a degree and a PhD in Chemistry from the University of Oporto in Portugal where she taught Analytical Chemistry and Instrumental Analysis as a Professor of the Faculty of Science... Read More →

avatar for Abed Haddad

Abed Haddad

Graduate Student, The Graduate Center, CUNYnCity College of New York, CUNY
Abed Haddad is graduate student pursuing a doctoral degree in Chemistry from the Graduate Center at the City University of New York. He has a B.S. in chemistry and minor in art history from Millsaps College in Jackson, MS. He works primarily with Raman spectroscopy and Surface Enhanced... Read More →
avatar for Tiffany Tang

Tiffany Tang

Chemistry Student, New York University
Tiffany Tang is a senior at New York University, where she is pursuing a BSc in Chemistry with minors in Art History and Philosophy. In 2017, she was a summer intern in the Department of Conservation at the Museum of Modern Art where she worked on projects in conservation science... Read More →

Saturday June 2, 2018 2:30pm - 3:00pm MDT
Meyerland Meeting Room Marriott Marquis Houston