Annie Cornwell - In Search of Immortality: An Investigation into George Stubbs’ use of wax and its implications for the conservation of paintings.
In the second half of the eighteenth century, following the discovery of paintings at Herculaneum and Pompeii, there was a European trend of experimentation concerning the encaustic painting methods of the ancients.” This can clearly be seen in the works of British animal-portraitist George Stubbs, as all of his paintings analyzed post 1770 have been found to contain beeswax within the binding medium of the paint. This talk will look at the analytical methods, namely GCMS and FTIR used for the identification of beeswax in Stubbs’ paintings as well as the art historical research carried out to determine his methods of making. It will also address the conservation implications for his wax paintings, which have remained highly solvent sensitive over time and are therefore difficult to treat. This includes the methodology and analysis of novel varnish removal techniques which have been used to treat paintings in the collection of the Yale Centre for British Art.