Our sub-collection of Latin American art is also undergoing conservation treatments! Phoebus Conservator Naomi Meulemans is happy to take you behind the paint layers of Amorphous Figures by Chilean artist Roberto Matta (1911-2002).

“Matta created this painting in 1940, at the beginning of a pioneering period in his career. Not only his surrealist artworks but also his original choice of materials made him a  progressive modernist. Did you know that he even used fluorescent pigments for Amorphous Figures? Before the Second World War, this was very unusual in the art world! Research shows that he not only added the pigment for an aesthetic, illuminating effect but also to give deeper meaning to the artwork. The painting lights up when exposed to UV (ultra violet) light and lets the underlying figures flicker.”

With normal light
With UV light

“In 2016, together with Conservator Giovanna Tamà, I investigated the ageing characteristics of the fluorescent pigment, with quite a dramatic result: after fifty years, the paint samples showed clear signs of ageing and after one hundred years, the fluorescent effect would even have varnished completely. Obviously, we want to avoid this! Therefore, it is important to protect the artwork against strong UV radiation. We opted for an adapted retouching method and a special frame. In order to protect the fluorescent layers but still be able to admire them from time to time, we installed a light switch on the frame to provide the artwork with controlled UV light when necessary. Doing so, we also created a surprising effect for the spectator!”