Contemporary Collections: Preprints from the AICCM National Conference 17th g 19th October 2007 Brisbane pp. 84-96
Severe traction cracking has developed decades later in some paintings by New Zealand artist, Colin McCahon (1919-1987) dating from the period 1959 61. The exact cause of deterioration is unclear, but appears to be related to a combination of sensitive components in the paints used, in conjunction with uncontrolled environments. McCahon began experimenting with household and industrial paving paints during the shortages of World War II. Sometimes mixed with artist-quality oils, these oil-based paints were primarily alkyds and oleo-resinous paints, and were applied to smooth-surfaced hardboard. The paintings affected by the traction cracking tend to have flat, glossy finishes and so the extensive damage is particularly disfiguring. Not only are the surfaces dulled, but alterations and underpaint are revealed, interfering with the surface image. This study aims to characterise these cracks and identify the primary components in these paints with a view to determining whether any have contributed to the traction cracking reaction.