“Investigation of Fatty Acid Migration in Alizarin Crimson Oil Paint in Two Works by Frank Stella”

1999:45: Miller

Presented at the 27th Annual Mtg of The American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, St. Louis, MO


In 1996, during a routine examination in preparation for treatment, a white crystalline growth was discovered on the surface of portions of two paintings created by Frank Stella in 1985-1986. These works are currently in the collection of The Art Institute of Chicago. An investigation of the crystalline growth included a review of existing literature and discussions with others in the field who had encountered this phenomenon in their own conservation work. Experiments were designed to test the theories described in the literature and our own theories developed during our research.

This paper describes Stella’s paintings, the materials used and the crystalline growths observed including possible causes and origins of these crystals. Finally, a description is given of the experiments, results and conclusions.

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