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Richard C. Wolbers

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​​​​began September 2007

Associate Professor and Coordinator of Science and Affiliated Paintings Conservator for the Winterthur/UD Master’s-level program in Art Conservation, Wolbers received a B.S. degree in biochemistry from the University of California, San Diego, in 1971. He also received an M.F.A. degree from the same institution in painting in 1977. In 1984, he earned an M.S. degree in art conservation from WUDPAC. His research interests include work in developing cleaning systems for fine art materials, as well as microscopically applied techniques for the characterization of paint binding materials. He has collaborated on research projects with The Getty Conservation Institute, Columbia University, and ICCROM in Rome. He has conducted workshops on his cleaning methods in Australia, England, Canada, Spain, Portugal, France, Germany, Mexico, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, Italy and various locations throughout the United States. In winter, 1991, he was featured on “Infinite Voyage,” and presented an interactive satellite lecture from the University of Pittsburgh campus. In 2000 he published Cleaning Paintings: Aqueous Methods (Archetype Books, London), and has co-authored a chapter in Furniture Conservation (Butterworth-Heinemann, 2003).  

Richard passed his exams in May 2009 and his proposal presentation in January 2010, and is now working on his dissertation. His committee members are Andrew Teplyakov (CHEM, committee chair), Kirk Czymmek (BIOTECH), Chris Petersen and Joyce Hill Stoner (ARTC), and Tom Learner (External member, Head of Science, Getty Conservation Institute).

TOPIC: Segregation of Surfactants in Modern Artists’ Acrylic Paints​

My dissertation will be unusual in the sense that it will combine elements of treatment design and evaluation with instrumental analysis. The focus of the work will be on the problem of the segregation of surfactant and surfactant-like materials from artists’ acrylic dispersion paints. Specifically, the swelling of model paint films (Golden Acrylic Colors; ColArts Liquitex Heavy Bodied Colors) will be “mapped” under a variety of aqueous and solvent conditions using 3D microscopy (Phaseview “Microphase” Camera) to record as completely as possible the characteristic physical response of these paints to typical cleaning solutions (volume change; surface area increase; surface roughness). Concomitantly, the paint film materials extracted under each condition will be characterized by LC-MS/MS using a Shimadzu Prominence HPLC interfaced with an Applied BioSystems 3200 QTRAP mass spectrometer.  Preliminary results suggest that the physical swelling of these test paints under aqueous conditions is both a pH- and conductivity-driven phenomenon (both second order effects) that relate primarily to the poly-anionic dispersal agent(s) present in these test films and a general or overall osmotic effect of solution ion concentration. Additionally, specific ion effects have been noted that are consistent with Hofmeister ionic phenomena noted in other polymeric materials.  The latter is an especially useful observation, because it suggests that swelling and loss of paint film materials can be largely attenuated by simple ion substitutions in cleaning systems.  Part of this dissertation will also include looking at the distribution of surfactant within and on the surface of test paint films (with XPS, and possibly DART assisted MS/MS techniques) under a variety of aging or exposure conditions. Also model micro-emulsion test formulations will be evaluated using the same techniques to further evaluate the efficacy of restricting physically water phase materials applied to these surfaces.​

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Richard C. Wolbers
  • The Department of Art Conservation
  • 303 Old College
  • University of Delaware
  • Newark, DE 19716, USA
  • Phone: 302-831-3489
  • art-conservation@udel.edu