The Russian Avant-Garde Painting Palette Documentary and Physicochemical Study of Inorganic Colorants



In the present article an attempt is being made to elucidate the inorganic colorants encountered in the Russian avant-garde painting palette by a combined art historical, documentary and physicochemical investigation; and to examine the influence of environmental factors on the chromatic profile originally sought by the artist. The overall approach based on written sources is confirmed by measurements on representative paintings from the Costakis Collection in the State Museum for Contemporary Art, Thessaloniki. The documentary research deals with the influences of Orthodox iconography, folkloric art, and occidental modernist tendencies on the Russian avant-garde palette; and is studying the effects of contradictory historical processes in the chromatic profile of individual paintings. In the experimental section a series of colorants are investigated concerning the effects of accelerated ageing on experimental painting tables, prepared as watercolour and gouache layers on paper ground. The resulting samples are subject to colorimetric, and spectroscopic measurements; and analogous analytical procedures are applied on samples taken from selected paintings belonging to the Costakis Collection. A systematic comparative study of all data permits evaluating the materials used as to their stability towards exstrincic factors, and proposing degradation routes, in order to assist museum curators and conservators in every concrete case related to the broad spectrum of pigments examined.