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Oil Paintings and Science: Microscopic Analyses

At cheapoilpainting.com we try our best to provide you with fresh new approaches at oil painting analysis. We criticize and scrutinize with the best of them and we love to philosophize and muse over Frida Kahlo’s painfully profound still life oil paintings, Jackson Pollock’s twisted geometrical impastos and Claude Monet’s fairytale gardens. We pride ourselves on being thoroughly anal about the meaning of Mondrian’s varying line thicknesses. But current scientific research has taken oil painting analysis to a whole new level and we’re intrigued. Our ears perked up when we saw that NASA has developed Magnetic imaging that can discern a real Pollock from a fake one by testing the magnetic minerals intrinsically existing in oil paints. Not only is this technology important for authentication purposes but it provides historical as well as critical data for art historians. A very immediate example of what Magnetic imaging technology brings to the world of oil painting is a recent analysis of Monet’s Port-Goulphar, Belle-Ile under the microscope.

Created in 1887 this Monet oil painting depicts a beautiful seascape with majestic rocky cliffs, marking the artist’s stay on Belle Island off the coast of Brittany during which time he created his famous collection of 36 seascape oil paintings. Microanalyzed by researchers Paula Dredge, Richard Wuhrer and Matthew Phillips the painting was examined to determine the type of pigments Monet used, as well as his technique of mixing colors and layering paint on the canvas. What they discovered changes how we view Monet’s painting approach, and perhaps the approach of an entire artistic movement.

Previously art scholars have considered Monet to have painted rapidly and impulsively—a style that underlines the Impressionist “plein air” technique. This so-called “scanning electron microscopy,” however, reveals the hidden folds in Monet’s oil paintings. Nine different pigments were found on the canvas, all of which are present in modern paints composed of synthetic metallic oxide materials. This finding supports the acknowledged phenomenon that oil paints in tubes, first released in the 19th century, were the foundation of the Impressionist technique because of their easy of use and brilliant colorings. Perhaps the most groundbreaking discovery in this study is that the researchers were able to separate several successive paint layers that indicate Monet applied oil-based paint over a long period of time. It suggests that the artist did not finish this seascape in its momentary existence, but instead most probably used the scene and its lighting as inspiration, sketched it and then finished it back at his estate in Giverny. This is somewhat of a revolutionary discovery for an oil painting movement created on the principle of instantaneous impressions. But perhaps it makes these Impressionist oil paintings all the more magical and mysterious because in a way it makes them all the less real. Monet wasn’t just painting nature’s different lighting schemes with his Haystacks series—he was trying to tell us something behind all those straws and colors.

Olivia Preston is passionate about everything on paintings and arts. When she’s not having fun she writes on oil paintings. For more information on and oil painting reproductions you can visit http://www.cheapoilpainting.com