An international team of researchers has gained important insights into the preservation of Edvard Munch’s artwork “The Scream”, which is difficult to preserve. Moisture and chlorine compounds are key factors for the damage to the oil painting, it says in the scientific magazine “Science Advances”. They are important for the oxidation of the cadmium sulfide pigments, on which many colors of the plant were based.
Light, on the other hand, plays a minor role. The decay of the yellow colors based on these pigments can be reduced by not exposing the work to greater moisture, while keeping the lighting at normal values for light-resistant painting materials.
The decay of oil paints based on cadmium sulfide may jeopardize the preservation of Munch’s iconic “Scream” painting from 1910, which, along with the 1893 version, is one of the two best-known of the four “Scream” motifs by the Norwegian. The research team examined the paintings using different radiation techniques. In these two paintings, the analyzes also showed how Munch experimented with various binders in order to enable intense – “screaming” – colors.
However, according to the researchers, the lavish use of the materials chosen by Munch is a challenge to preserve the works of art in the long term. Chemical processes can therefore lead to color changes and structural damage, especially with yellow tones. These can be found not only at Munch, but also on paintings by other contemporary artists such as Henri Matisse and Vincent van Gogh. The color quality of many of these works deteriorates, and flaking of the colors has also been documented.