Material Analysis

Art Material Analysis

Information about artwork's physical and chemical composition and characteristics gained from art material analysis provides the scientific basis for conservation. The goal of material analysis is to prevent deterioration of artworks and to establish a database of information on artworks. Conservation specialists hope this will prove to be a valuable contribution to art history.

  • Data research and photographic documentation
  • Infrared and UItraviolet Analysis
  • Microscope Analysis
  • Inorganic Components Analysis(XRF, SEM - EDS)
  • Organic Components Analysis (FT-IR)

Infrared and Ultraviolet Analysis

Infrared light via NIR have lower scattering absorption around colors and pollutants. Infrared rays will penetrate the layers of paint to reflect or absorb the base layer and rough sketches on the painting. Through this process conservation specialists can identify any hidden rough sketches or signatures on the painting's base layer. Image 1 below demonstrates the example of hidden words discovered though infrared analysis on Nude by Oh Ji-Ho

  • Infrared photograph of Nude by Oh Ji Ho’s Infrared photograph of Nude by Oh Ji Ho’s
  • Infrared photograph of Nude by Oh Ji Ho’s

Ultraviolet rays refers to the area exclusive of the short wavelengths of visible rays, and is normally used to investigate the surface condition and the luminescence of a painting. Ultraviolet rays allows conservation specialists to see whether there is a varnish coating on the painting, as well as color retouching, painted-over marks, and any type of pollutants. In Image of Wife by Oh Ji-Ho, covered parts are shown through ultraviolet rays

  • Ultraviolet photograph of Portrait of Wife by Oh Ji Ho
  • Ultraviolet photograph of Portrait of Wife by Oh Ji Ho

XRF: X-ray Diffraction Analysis

X-ray Diffraction Analysis(XRF) is the most common technique used in artwork analysis domestically and abroad. Its main advantage is that it allows conservation specialists to quickly analyze artworks nondestructively and without taking samples. Images below demonstrate the results of Winter Landscape by Oh Ji-Ho, as analyzed by the XRF instrument at the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Korea.

  • XRF instrument XRF instrument
  • Points of component analysis Points of component analysis
  • Image5. Spectrum of inorganic pigment components in the yellow paint Image5. Spectrum of inorganic pigment components in the yellow paint
  • Image6. Spectrum of inorganic pigment components in the green paint Image6. Spectrum of inorganic pigment components in the green paint

Analysis of Painting Materials

The purpose of analyzing painting materials in conservation is to understand its physical and chemical characteristics in order to clearly seek and objectively interpret the analysis result of painting. Various techniques are used in the analysis and the results are collected and stored.

Material analysis of oil painting
1) Comparison of inorganic components in paint using XRF (XRF : X-ray Diffraction Analysis)
Material analysis of oil painting
Color name Produced company Detected element
Silver White S company CalciumCa), Lead(Pb)
H company Calcium(Ca), Titanium(Ti)
  • Spectrum of components in Silver White produced by S company Spectrum of components in Silver White produced by S company
  • Spectrum of components in Silver White produced by H company Spectrum of components in Silver White produced by H company
2) Pigment component analysis and particle shape observation using SEM (Scanning Electron Microscope)and EDS (Energy Dispersive Spectroscope)

The Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) is a type of electron microscope with high resolution capacity and depth of focus that can three-dimensionally analyze a solid specimen. Used for structure and composition analysis of regular material, the advantage of SEM is that this high-resolution croscope can gather a lot more information than an optical microscope. The composition of a sample can be observed through pigment particle structure analysis and point analysis using Energy Dispersive Spectroscope (EDS) attached to SEM.

  • SEM-EDS Instrument SEM-EDS Instrument
  • Microscopic view of traditional pigment Microscopic view of traditional pigment
  • Component Spectrum Component Spectrum
3) Comparison of organic components in paint using FT-IR (Fourier-Transform Infrared Spectroscopy)

With FT-IR, it is possible to analyze not only solid materials but also other various types of materials such as gas or liquid. FT-IR can also analyze the organic, and even some of the inorganic, compounds of a painting. This method of analysis is used to analyze oil medium in oil painting, to differentiate between oil-based and water-based paint, and to analyze the characteristics of binder and varnish.

  • Ft-IR instrument Ft-IR instrument
  • FT-IR spectrum of Silver White produced b S company FT-IR spectrum of Silver White produced b S company
4) Comparison of paint chromaticity

Chromaticity occupies wavelength of 380-770 nm, which are visible rays. Chromaticity analysis provides objective figures for the paint's pigment, and can also be used to observe time-induced color deterioration by comparing the measured data with time passed.

  • Comparison of chromaticity in Silver White before and after deterioration Comparison of chromaticity
    in Silver White before and after deterioration
  • Chromaticity distribution in paintings sold in market Chromaticity distribution in paintings sold in market