A wall of color, a window to the past

first_imgAs brilliant as any of the works in the Harvard Art Museums’ galleries is a rainbow of small glass jars on the building’s fourth floor.Curious visitors who turn left exiting the museums’ elevators will see the Forbes Pigment Collection, a floor-to-ceiling wall of color compiled between about 1910 and 1944 by the director of the Fogg Art Museum.“In thinking about the role of a university museum, he was the first to conceive of it as ‘a laboratory for the fine arts,’ ” noted research curator Francesca Bewer in her book “A Laboratory for Art: Harvard’s Fogg Museum and the Emergence of Conservation in America, 1900–1950.”Edward Forbes’ fascination with a painting’s colors and their binding medium — a close inspection of which could help to determine a work’s authenticity — fueled his desire to use science to understand and study great works of art. He is often cited as the father of the field of art conservation in the United States.Narayan Khandekar, director of the Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, shares a selection of intense colors with curious backstories. Photos by Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff PhotographerBy the 1920s, Forbes had amassed containers of deep blues, rich purples, vibrant yellows, and myriad other colors from his travels to Europe and the Far East. Through the years, word of mouth helped the collection to grow as other art lovers and experts donated their own pigments. The museums’ collection, which is continually added to, now contains more than 2,500 samples and is renowned in the art community. For years, the pigments have helped art experts to research and authenticate paintings. Samples from the collection have been sent to the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Library of Congress, the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, and the National Research Laboratory for Conservation of New Delhi, India.In Cambridge, Forbes’ legacy thrives in the museums’ Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, where experts preserve masterworks for future generations and decipher the chemical makeup of paint and pottery glaze. In addition to being their own artworks, Forbes’ pigments are a window to the past, shedding light on the working methods and preferred materials of renowned artists. Studying the pigments also reveals the effort it took, in the days before synthetic pigments, to get colors just right.Earlier this year, Narayan Khandekar, the Straus Center’s new director, pulled out for inspection a selection of intense colors with curious backstories to share:A piercing, precious blueSkill was needed to extract the rich blue hue from the lapis lazuli stone mined from quarries in Afghanistan. Preparers carefully ground the precious rock into particles small enough to work with yet “large enough to contain the blue color,” said Khandekar, holding up a jar of intense deep-blue powder. The color was used in medieval paintings. More prized than gold, it “often warranted its own budget line in agreements.”,Synthetic blueDirector of the Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies Narayan Khandekar explains how the creation of a synthetic substance, which was chemically identical to the pigment produced from the semiprecious stone lapis lazuli, opened up a new world of blue hues to artists. Pulling purple from the ocean floorThe key ingredient to another expensive pigment lurked in ocean waters. A secretion from the predatory sea snail Bolinus brandaris (originally known as Murex brandaris) provided the base for the deep, blue-red hue known as Tyrian purple, explained Khandekar. Its high cost rendered it a status symbol, and Byzantine emperors forbade anyone outside the imperial court from using the violet dye, lending it the distinction “royal purple.”,A priceless purpleKhandekar explains the aquatic origins of Tyrian purple. Shiny, precious metalThere are small jars of shimmering metal pigments, often found in automotive finishes, that gradually made their way into 20th-century pop art. English painter and collage artist Richard Hamilton was fond of spraying the metal flakes, suspended in a binding medium, on his works to give his art a shining glow, said Khandekar. “They are kind of extraordinary, these tiny bits of metal that you find on various works.”,Metals in metallic paintThe use of tiny metallic flakes suspended in a binding medium can give artworks a shining finish. Of crimson originThere are samples of kermes, an Old World pigment created by grinding tiny blisters produced by the insects Coccus ilicis, which lived on the kermes oak tree. Harvard’s sports teams, students, and alumni everywhere owe a debt of gratitude to the little bugs: Kermes is also the source of the word “crimson.”,Kermes is for crimsonThe rich kermes red pigment was created by grinding up the dried bodies of insects that lived on the kermes oak tree. Deadly beautySome pigments must be handled with care, including the yellow-hued orpiment and the red-orange realgar, which are derived from arsenic sulfide minerals.Similarly, the crystalline powder copper acetoarsenite, a brilliant shade of emerald green, could be hazardous to an artist’s health. The pigment produced the vibrant background found in the Fogg Museum’s “Self-Portrait Dedicated to Paul Gauguin” by Vincent van Gogh. But it was also highly toxic. Inexpensive to make, the color became a popular shade for household paint near the end of the 1800s and into the early 1900s, but its fumes could prove deadly. Later, the inorganic compound was used in insect repellant. “The ultimate intent is to get the right color,” said Khandekar, “but often artists will take great risks in doing so.”,Green poisonArtists often took risks to create their works, using poisonous pigments like emerald green to get the color just right.,Cadmium yellowKhandekar discusses the use of cadmium yellow by the Impressionists. Red is for RothkoIn recent years, working with the collection helped experts to develop an innovative “virtual” restoration. After analyzing Lithol red, the pigment favored by abstract artist Mark Rothko, Khandekar and a team of scholars developed a technique that used light from a projector to augment the faded colors on a series of Rothko murals that the artist painted for Harvard.“We found that when you tried to fade Lithol red as a powder, it was incredibly stable, but when you mixed it with ultramarine blue and a binding medium it became incredibly light-sensitive. Our analysis helped us understand what was going on with the paint,” said Khandekar. “To be able to treat and best look after works of art, you need to know all the things that are going on with them, and the Forbes Pigment Collection helps us do that.”last_img read more


RTS Becomes R2Sonic Norwegian Distributor

first_imgNorwegian subsea equipment provider Rental & Technology Services (RTS) has been appointed as the exclusive distributor of R2Sonic in Norway.RTS will back R2Sonic’s expansion into Norway by providing knowledgeable and personalized support.Helge Knutsen, managing director, RTS, said: “As one of the early adopters, we have been supplying R2Sonic multibeam echosounders to our customers in the rental market for many years, and with great results and feedback from our customers. We are now delighted to work more closely with R2Sonic, a true innovator in the subsea industry, as their Norwegian distributor. This will enable us to further enhance our product range and keep the promise to our customers to deliver the finest available subsea technology at any given time.”Cris Sabo, VP of sales at R2Sonic, added: “It is crucial for us to be close to our customers. Our priority is to provide a second-to-none experience to our end-users, which combines leading-edge and innovative products with outstanding customer service. Partnering with RTS gives us the opportunity to strengthen our presence in Norway and ensure exceptional customer support.“last_img read more


Marvellous result for mighty Moore

first_img Ballydoyle number one jockey Joseph O’Brien opted to partner eventual fifth Palace, allowing the all-conquering Moore to team up with the 10-1 chance, who was running for only the third time having finished sixth in the Leopardstown trial on March 30. The Olly Stevens-trained Lightning Thunder, narrowly beaten by Miss France in the Newmarket equivalent, went off the 100-30 favourite and led going into the final furlong, but she could not cope with the winner’s late surge and went down by three lengths. Ryan Moore was full of praise for Marvellous after the Aidan O’Brien-trained filly provided the jockey with a first victory in the Etihad Airways Irish 1,000 Guineas at the Curragh. Another Ballydoyle contender, Wonderfully, made the running and Marvellous still had plenty of work to do when Harry Bentley swept to the lead with a couple of furlongs remaining on the market leader, but her stamina came into the equation as O’Brien captured the prize for the sixth time in his career. James Doyle, who won Saturday’s Irish 2,000 Guineas on Kingman, finished third aboard the Dermot Weld-trained Vote Often. Moore said: “You have to be very pleased, it was only her third run, in deep ground. She was drawn towards the outside and was a long way back. She had to do it the hard way, she passed nearly the whole field and you’d have to say it was a really good performance. “I was taken off my feet after a furlong and couldn’t really hold my spot. When I asked her, she picked up, I think she was just pretty inexperienced during the race. She should get further but you never know with these things. I’m sure she’d be a better filly on nicer ground.” O’Brien added: ” She handled this sort of ground when she won her maiden at Navan last year. She then had the one run this year at Leopardstown and had a bit of a break after that as, like a lot of mine, she was coughing a bit. “Joseph had a tough choice and he knew it was a close call, but at declaration time we didn’t think it was going to get as soft as this. “With Marvellous, the plan was to come here and then on to Epsom. You’d have to say she’d definitely get a mile and a quarter the way she ran to the line. She’s a nice, compact filly and I don’t think she’d have any problems handling Epsom.” The man who calls the shots is part-owner John Magnier, who said: “Aidan fancied her. In fact, I think he even asked Joseph to ride her and Joseph picked the other one. “Her pedigree would indicate there’s could be more to come to come, she’s out of a sister to Giant’s Causeway who won the Cherry Hinton. She’s really well bred and probably bred to get a mile and a half. We’ll have to listen to what they all say over the next few days, but I couldn’t see any reason why not (run in the Oaks) if all goes well.” center_img Press Associationlast_img read more