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Collection Conservation

 

X-rays in conservation

home | Infrared | Microscopy 1 | 2 | X-rays

 

X-rays: electromagnetic radiation of short wavelength able to pass through opaque bodies

Totem Lesson 2 Jackson Pollock 1945 oil on canvas 182.8 x 152.4cm
Jackson Pollock 'Totem Lesson 2' 1945 oil on canvas 182.8 x 152.4cm
X-ray mosaic made by cutting and pasting photographic prints
X-ray mosaic made by cutting and pasting photographic prints
Image made by the effect of X-rays on a photographic plate revealing the the layers of paint hidden by the surface image. See orange outline - colour image
Image made by the effect of X-rays on a photographic plate revealing the the layers of paint hidden by the surface image. See orange outline – colour image
  Photographic print made from X-ray film. See orange outline at right, in x-ray mosaic and colour image
Photographic print made from X-ray film. See orange outline at right, in x-ray mosaic and colour image
 
X-ray mosaic top left quadrant
X-ray mosaic top left quadrant
  Colour reproduction top left quadrant
Colour reproduction top left quadrant
 

X-radiography is one technical examination method often used by conservators. The ability of X-rays to pass through materials of varying densities can reveal information hidden to the naked eye.

X-radiography was chosen primarily to check the condition of the original stretcher for Totem Lesson 2 before removing the canvas from it. The films revealed the siting and angle of the tacks as well as the extension of the mitre joins at the corners.

More excitingly, the X-rays show the dramatic changes that the artist made during the execution of the painting. Pollock painted large areas of detailed composition. He then blocked out the image using grey paint and added final touches to complete the work.

Click on images to enlarge