Published in

Nature Research, Scientific Reports, 1(9), 2019

DOI: 10.1038/s41598-019-39963-z



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The role of the polymeric network in the water sensitivity of modern oil paints

This paper is made freely available by the publisher.
This paper is made freely available by the publisher.

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AbstractSpectroscopic and mass spectrometric analytical techniques were used to characterise two naturally aged Winsor & Newton (W&N) Winsor Green (phthalocyanine green, PG7) artists’ oil colour paint swatches dating to 1993 and 2003. Infrared and Energy Dispersive X-ray (EDX) analysis indicated that the swatches were of closely similar composition, yet the swatch from 2003 was water-sensitive whilst the swatch from 1993 was not. Water-sensitivity is a conservation challenge associated with significant numbers of modern oil paintings and this study aimed to further develop our understanding of the molecular causes of water sensitivity. SEM elemental mapping of samples taken from both swatches provided no indication for the formation of epsomite – a known cause of water sensitivity in some modern oil paintings. Liquid chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry (HPLC-MS) and gas chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry (GC-MS) also revealed very similar qualitative-quantitative composition in terms of unbound and esterified medium fractions. The polymeric network was investigated using analytical pyrolysis. A combination of flash pyrolysis coupled with gas chromatography mass spectrometry (Py-GC-MS) together with evolved gas analysis mass spectrometry (EGA-MS) revealed that the polymeric material was relatively more abundant in the non-water-sensitive paint. This is the first multi-analytical study that has demonstrated a correlation between water-sensitivity and the degree of polymerisation of the oil medium; independent of other known causes of water-sensitivity.