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Fields & Applications Spectroscopy, Materials

Measuring Munch's Crayons

Unlike their counterparts, pastel crayons appear to have been neglected in technical studies into the composition of modern painting materials. Recently, researchers tried to rectify this by performing a multi-analytical study of 44 crayons belonging to revered expressionist artist Edvard Munch. 

The researchers used a combination of X-ray fluorescence spectrometry, FT-IR, Raman, surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy, pyrolysis GC-MS, LC-MS and HPLC-HRMS to elucidate the composition of the crayons. 

The results showed the crayons were oil-based, with the main binding media being beeswax, palm oil or Japan wax in different relative abundances dependent on the brand of crayon. Overall, the synthetic and organic pigments used in both brands were largely similar, with the exception of the greens; these were made using either Prussian blue and chrome yellow, or a mix of viridian, ultramarine and lead chromate. The researchers believe the detailed results will aid conservation strategies for both Munch’s and other 19th century artists’ works. 

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  1. J La Nasa et al., Scientific Reports, 11 (2021). DOI : 10.1038/s41598-021-86031-6

About the Author

Lauren Robertson

By the time I finished my degree in Microbiology I had come to one conclusion – I did not want to work in a lab. Instead, I decided to move to the south of Spain to teach English. After two brilliant years, I realized that I missed science, and what I really enjoyed was communicating scientific ideas – whether that be to four-year-olds or mature professionals. On returning to England I landed a role in science writing and found it combined my passions perfectly. Now at Texere, I get to hone these skills every day by writing about the latest research in an exciting, creative way.

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