Changes in the Paint Layers in Munch's Paintings

In this project, surface phenomena that appear as a darkening or fading of the paint layers in Munch's paintings are examined. Can these be caused by optical phenomena or chemical changes, or are they simply the consequences of Munch's painting technique?

A large number of Munch's paintings have paint layers that are matt, often with a greyish layer of surface dirt, which is particularly visible since many of the paintings have exposed areas of white primer. The same brushstroke can have both a matt and semi-glossy appearance.There are numerous incidences of paint loss, craquelure and various local surface phenomena, such as accumulations of white surface material and discoloured brownish stains. In many of the paintings we have observed occurrences of what we believe to be changes in blue and red areas of colour.

Research on the degradation and changes in the cadmium yellow paint used by Vincent van Gogh, Henri Matisse and Edvard Munch has made it possible to examine other colours and surface phenomena observed in additional works by Munch. As opposed to Munch, extensive research has been conducted on the works of Vincent van Gogh. Can other pigments in Munch's paintings have undergone degradation similar to what we have found in the cadmium yellow pigments used in The Scream?

Surface phenomena is the primary focus of examinations conducted with non-invasive analysis methods, such as UV-, photo-analytic techniques and energy-dispersive X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy. In the future we will if necessary conduct spectroscopic analyses that require the extraction of paint samples.

This research is also part of a project-based Master's Degree at the University of Oslo.