In order to make decisions concerning the long-term conservation of Acanthes which will not have to be revised at a later date, a precise and reliable analysis of its materials must be made. The different materials used in the papiers découpés, such as gouache paints, industrially manufactured papers, the adhesives, and not least the canvas, form a complex, multilayered structure. These layers will be analyzed with the aid of various techniques, to achieve a better understanding of Matisse’s working methods.
The image surface will be inspected under various lighting conditions, such as oblique light, and ultraviolet and infrared light, which are invisible to the naked eye. Details such as the structure of the paper will be investigated in up to 60x enlargement with the aid of a stereo microscope. In order to estimate the paper’s long term aging process, the composition of the fibers and sizes it contains, and the adhesives used, will be analyzed.
The inter-disciplinary nature of the team promises to ensure a successful long-term conservation of Acanthes. With regard to the white painted background and the initial charcoal drawing, comparisons will be made with other works in international collections, such as the Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris, and the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Close collaboration with the art historians involved and an evaluation of written statements and historic photographs will provide further valuable pointers on Matisse’s working methods and materials.
The observations will be recorded in written protocols, graphically in computer-based images, and in photographic form. All results will be evaluated and collated. The findings thus obtained will provide the basis for the conservation measures to follow.