Insights gained into Paul Gauguin's artistic process

Washington, Feb 15 (ANI): A team of scientists and art conservators has gained insights into French artist Paul Gauguin's creative process.

Gauguin is well known for his colorful paintings of Tahitian life, such as the painting that sold recently for nearly 300 million dollars, but he also was a highly experimental printmaker. Little is known, however, about the techniques and materials Gauguin used to create his unusual and complex graphic works.

Researchers from Northwestern University and the Art Institute of Chicago has used a simple light bulb, an SLR camera and computational power to uncover new details of Gauguin's printmaking process, how he formed, layered and re-used imagery to make 19 unique graphic works in the Art Institute's collection.

The new results establish Gauguin's use of materials and process in a chronological order, solving the puzzle of how "Nativity" was made. Gauguin created the print using a layering of images created on paper by drawings, transfer of images and two different inks.

Northwestern computer scientist Oliver S. Cossairt said that to measure the 3-D surface of the prints, they used some very accessible techniques that can be used by art conservators and historians around the world to analyze artworks.

Cossairt added that the technique allowed them to peel away the print's color and look at the surface structure only and for each image, they know the angle of the lighting and the brightness of each pixel and from that they can calculate the unknown, the surface structure.

The surface structure of "Nativity" revealed solid evidence of two new things. First, the white lines, in which there is an absence of ink (they have been known as "blind incisions"), are on a flat surface. This indicates those lines were not produced using a relief process but rather a transfer process, where Gauguin drew on an inked surface, removing ink, and those empty lines were transferred to his print.

Second, the ink of the black lines sits atop ridges in the paper, indicating a monotype transfer process was used. Gauguin would have placed his paper on an inked surface and then drawn on the back of the paper, causing ink to be transferred to the paper where pressure from the artist's pencil was applied. (The pressure also caused the ridges.) (ANI)