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Disclosing Jackson Pollock's palette in Alchemy (1947) by non-invasive spectroscopies

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Alchemy (1947, Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice) is one of the most materic works by J. Pollock, whose palette is extensive, ranging from white to yellow, red, green, violet, blue, black, and silver. Each layer of color was laid on top of a previously dried one and effectively separated from the lower one forming a quite complex stratigraphy with colors intersecting each other. In this study, a non-invasive multi-technique method combining point analysis with Vis-NIR multispectral imaging has been exploited to give insights on the painting technique of the American abstract expressionist. The molecular identification of pigments, colorants and extenders contained in fifteen different paints has been achieved combining key spectral markers from elemental, electronic and vibrational spectroscopies. For those colors exhibiting similar hues but different chemical compositions, a mapping procedure based on false color rendering, obtained by properly mixing three spectral planes from the Vis-NIR multispectral imaging set, has been successfully applied. Relevant for the understanding of the evolution of Pollock's drip technique is the identification of both traditional oil-based paints and oil-modified alkyd media. Point analysis by reflection FTIR scattered throughout the painting enabled mapping the distinct use of traditional and new binding media among painted, squeezed and dripped paints.




Rosi, F., Grazia, C., Fontana, R., Gabrieli, F., Pensabene Buemi, L., Pampaloni, E., … Miliani, C. (2016). Disclosing Jackson Pollock’s palette in Alchemy (1947) by non-invasive spectroscopies. Heritage Science, 4(1).

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