Austin Nevin is the Head of the Department of Conservation, at the Courtauld Institute of Art that unites Easel Painting and Wall Painting Conservation with transdisplinary research on preventive conservation, technical art history, conservation science and conservation practice. His research focuses on the conservation and analysis of paintings, ancient and modern art on walls, easels and on paper and ranges from Chinese wall paintings to the analysis of Egyptian Polychromy and the analysis of red pigments from Leonardo´s The Last Supper. His recent research has also led to the identification of egg binders in wall paintings from Tel Kabri, the second oldest example of organic binding media in western paintings.
Trained as a conservator and conservation scientist he has worked as a Senior Lecturer at the University of Gothenburg and taught at the Accademia di Brera in Milan. Between 2011-2019 he was a Researcher at the Istituto di Fotonica e Nanotecnologie (IFN) in Milan, part of the Italian National Research Council. He completed post doctoral research at the Department of Physics at the Politecnico di Milano on applications of time resolved fluorescence spectroscopy to cultural heritage. Between 2004-2007 I was a Marie Curie Early Stage Research Fellow at the Foundation for Research and Technology (IESL-FORTH) in Greece. Following a degree in Chemistry from the University of Oxford (2001), he obtained an MA in the Conservation of Wall Painting (2004) and a PhD at The Courtauld (2008). He is a Vice President and Fellow of the International Institute for the Conservation of Artistic and Historic Works and has chaired the Technical Committees for the Edinburgh (2020), Turin (2018), Los Angeles (2016) and Hong Kong (2014) Congresses. He served as the Coordinator of the Scientific Research working group of ICOM-CC from 2011-2014, and is an Editor of Studies in Conservation and of the Springer Series Cultural Heritage Science.
Title: Conservation Science and Changing Colours ‐ Approaches to measuring and managing change
Abstract: Colour in paintings and works of art is of fundamental importance in conservation, as is the understanding of the ways that pigments are used by artists to create different optical effects in paint. Part of conservation is technical study which involves understanding paint application, the layering pigments in a binding medium, and the role of the varnish or surface coatings – and work at The Courtauld Institute of Art has played a fundamental role in the understanding of the technology of easel paintings and wall paintings. My talk will highlight new research in the use of imaging and spectroscopic techniques for the visualization and mapping of pigments that will include wall paintings in India, Italy and Sweden. A vast range of pigments and layer structures are found in easel and wall paintings, from the single layers to multiple and complex mixtures found in Cypriot Byzantine wall paintings. Conservation is also faced with challenges related to pigment deterioration – which may often have a strong impact on the appearance of paintings and the colour of pigments. Indeed, many factors can affect paintings and the stability of pigments – from photooxidation as a results of light exposure of red and yellow organic lake pigments, to chemical reactions between pigments and binding media, to the degradation of modern pigments. Recent research can shed new light on the mechanisms behind colour change – and may suggest how we may be able to prolong the life of paintings. Here analytical techniques are of fundamental importance to reveal molecular changes on the microscale. Examples of research on cadmium and copper-based pigments from historical samples of easel and wall paintings and works by Picasso and Leonardo da Vinci will be shown.