How To Preserve A Mark Rothko

In the 1980s, the art conservator Raymond Lafontaine developed a new way to preserve paintings: He used light from slide projects to augment works that had faded. The technique came from “thinking about color perception,” Jens Stenger, a former conservation scientist in Harvard’s Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, explains. “In human color perception you have a light source, a surface, and a viewer, and the three interact. If you can’t change the surface, you can change the light source to change the color.” It was preservation, essentially, by way of optical illusion. Read here how this technique was applied to Mark Rothko’s “Panel Five,” egg tempera and distemper on canvas, a detail of which is pictured here.

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