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Paint Analysis of Jackson Pollock's Mural

Video transcript
(modern music) - One of the sort of standard approaches to analyzing artists' paint is to take a tiny sample so that we reveal the layers in their sequence of application from the ground up through the various layers to the varnish. So we see the whole sequence of paint applications revealed in this one tiny sample that's just a few hundred microns across. Some of the other information we can get from paint cross-sections, are to do with the interactions between layers. We can tell, for example, if one paint layer was applied over a paint that was still wet when the second paint was applied. We find that the very first set of paints applied by Pollock are a series of four paints which seem to represent his first laying in of the broad composition applied very dynamically, most of those paints show wet-on-wet interactions. So we see the cadmium lemon picking up particles of the cerulean blue from the teal and the yellow getting intermingled with the umber. So our general conclusion is that the very dynamic creative phase of painting comes in that set of four paints. We've used quite a range of analytical techniques and we were able to identify that the majority of the paints in mural are actually oil paint, and high quality artist oil paint at that. The finding of casein house paints alongside all of the oil paints in mural was really something of a surprise, really rather unexpected. We think that Pollock chose that particular material for its qualities of being opaque, bright, white, and covering, and quick drying, to fill in the background reserve between all the colored shapes. And while we're throwing all this scientific technical know-how at the work, it's important for us to remember all along that we're doing that to enlighten how he went about creating this spectacular work of art. (modern music)