A lecture on David Smith and the use of Modern Paints

Recently I have been attending a few evening lecturs set up by ICON (Institute of Conservation). These have been on a range of different subjects concentrating on members specialities and the research some members are undertaking.

Thursday’s lecture was delivered by Richard Mulholland, a paper conservator at the V&A who has worked all over the world in paper conservation. Mulholland has a speciality in the work of David Smith and has researched him for much of his career.

Here Mulholland was showing us the use of paint in Smith’s work, both in his sculpture and drawings, which have not had as much publicity as his sculptures in the past. Smith started his career in the industrial welding industry, a skill which he transported across to his sculptures. It is also this interest in the industrial metal works throughout the early 20th century that affected the paint he used. Mulholland discussed the research he had made into the paints used by Smith and their chemical make-up, which were found to contain industrial paints, both for metal work, and for interior decoration, these were in small amounts compared to the more common use of artistic paints, such as alkyd and casein paints and later acrylics when they became more common. Smith had also stated throughout his career that he mixed many of his own paints which used egg yolks – it was due to these ingredients that Mulholland found some fatty acid deposits on top of the paintings which he was researching.

I believe a full review of this lecture will be on the ICON website in the not to distant future, but thank you very much to Richard Mulholland for a fascinating lecture.

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