William and Mary hosted the 2016 Colonial Academic Alliance Undergraduate Research Conference on April 16-17,2016. Over 75 students from The College of Charleston, Drexel University, Elon University, Hofstra University, James Madison University, Towson University, and The University of North Carolina Wilmington showcased their research in oral or poster presentations.
From its invention to the present, photography has raised some important doubts. Maybe the most important is a doubt about what we do when we make a photograph. Can a photograph express something the photographer means, or does it merely and mechanically record what stands before the camera? That is to say, when you make a photograph, are you making it or does it make itself? Does a photographer in any important sense do anything? This talk aims to address the problem and propose a solution by examining a story by the Victorian photographer Peter Henry Emerson–a story about shopping for fish and buying a round of beer.
“Finding Fugitive Pigments in Historic Oil Paintings”
Kristin L. Wustholz, Assistant Professor of Chemistry
Although several analytical methods provide conservators with the ability to identify inorganic colorants in works of art, the ultrasensitive detection of organic materials, those often most prone to fading and decomposition, is challenging. Recent advances in the field of surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) spectroscopy have enabled the identification of various organic dyestuffs in small disperse samples and cross-sections from oil paintings. Here, we apply several SERS-based approaches to study organic pigments in a series of oil paintings that represents a variety of materials, artists, and techniques from Britain to North America during the 18th century. For example, we examine the use of carmine lake, Prussian blue, and indigo in Portrait of Evelyn Byrd by an unknown London-based artist (probably 1725-1726) and Portrait of Isaac Barre by Sir Joshua Reynolds (1766). The results of these SERS-based analyses reveal the presence of organic pigments in 18th-century oil paintings, not only in broad-scale quantity-rich areas of the composition, but also the more challenging fleshtones and small, yet important, detail regions. Collectively, these SERS findings provide a more accurate reflection of organic materials in 18th-century British-North American Transatlantic portraits and ultimately, inform the digital reconstruction of two portraits so that art historians and conservators can better understand the original intent of the artist.