Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Scientist's Camera Sees Artwork Down to Its Underdrawings

08.12.2009
A scientist at the University of Arizona in Tucson has modified a commercial 8-megapixel digital SLR camera for infrared use, creating an inexpensive, portable new tool that even amateur photographers can use to quickly see through layers of paint in artwork to reveal drawings, defects or other features on the original canvas.

Conservators have been using infrared, or IR, cameras to examine and document artwork since the late 1960s. "But these cameras can cost upwards of $100,000, so the number of paintings studied by this technique has been extremely limited," said UA optical sciences and physics Professor Charles M. Falco.

‘The technique is based on the fact that many common pigments are partially transparent to infrared light, making it possible to use appropriate infrared sensors to capture important information from surfaces that are covered by layers of paint," he said.

Early last year, Falco – an experimental physicist who has been interested in photography and in art since childhood – had an idea that he thought might work.

He realized that modern digital cameras use silicon sensors sensitive to the germane infrared wavelengths and that such cameras might be modified to capture high-resolution infrared photographs – or "IR reflectograms"

– of works of art.

Falco bought a one-generation-old Canon 30D camera on eBay.

"If this didn't work, I would have been out the better part of $1,000.
But I was willing to accept that," he said.
For about another $450, Falco converted the camera by removing the infrared-blocking filter and replacing it with a visible-blocking filter, thereby allowing only IR light to reach the camera's sensor. He also adjusted the electronics so that the autofocus feature automatically offsets the camera lens to bring infrared light into sharp focus.

Then he began visiting museums to photograph art.

In a little over a year, Falco has tested his system under a variety of conditions in a dozen museums on three continents, including the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, and the National Museum of Western Art in Toyko, Japan.

The first paintings Falco studied were in the Samuel H. Kress Collection at the University of Arizona Museum of Art. Among these works is a painting titled "The Man of Sorrows with Saints and Donors." It was painted by an unknown French artist, probably sometime between the years

1525 and 1550.

"My camera let me discover something about that painting that nobody knew existed - that there are guide lines under the paint that the artist used to create the pedestal in perfect perspective," Falco said.

"These lines reveal that this Early Renaissance artist understood and based his drawing on the constructed laws of perspective."

Next, at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Falco had the chance to test his camera on the same three paintings that conservators had recently analyzed using a $100,000 IR camera.

"They were thrilled because for one of the paintings, I captured essentially all the information the expensive camera did, and for the other two paintings, I captured between half and two-thirds of the information that the expensive camera did," Falco said.

Falco's converted camera, including its 35mm f/2 lens purchased for less than $250, cost about $2,000 total.

"So you can have at least half the information about these artworks that is revealed in the IR for $2,000, versus having no information at all because you can't afford the $100,000 camera," he said.

On his visit to Japan's National Museum of Western Art last December, Falco photographed about 100 artworks that interested him in less than two hours.

"I just walk up to a wall where the painting is on exhibit and take its picture. Even in subdued museum lighting, I can handhold the camera to get a good IR image at 1/30 of a second."

He added, "I probably now have more IR reflectograms in my computer than have been taken in total during the entirety of the last 40 years."

Editors of the "Review of Scientific Instruments" invited Falco to write a technical description of his high-resolution imaging instrument and published the paper as the cover story of their July 2009 issue. The paper, titled "High resolution digital camera for infrared reflectography" is published online.

Falco will give invited lectures on the camera and its applications at the University of Washington in January, at an international conference on digital image processing in Singapore in February and at the meeting of the American Physical Society in Portland, Ore., in March.

Falco's work is based on a collaboration with the artist David Hockney and on image analysis research funded by the Army Research Office.

CONTACT:
Charles M. Falco (520-621-6771; falco@u.arizona.edu)
WEBLINKS:
Charles Falco Web page -
http://www.optics.arizona.edu/faculty/Resumes/Falco.htm
Charles Falco's Art-Optics Web page -
http://www.optics.arizona.edu/SSD/art-optics/index.html
Review of Scientific Instruments article - http://scitation.aip.org/getabs/servlet/GetabsServlet?prog=normal&id=RSINAK000080000007071301000001&idtype=cvips&gifs=yes

Lori Stiles | University of Arizona
Further information:
http://www.arizona.edu

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht Multiregional brain on a chip
16.01.2017 | Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

nachricht Researchers develop environmentally friendly soy air filter
16.01.2017 | Washington State University

All articles from Power and Electrical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

Im Focus: How to inflate a hardened concrete shell with a weight of 80 t

At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).

Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

Nothing will happen without batteries making it happen!

05.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Explaining how 2-D materials break at the atomic level

18.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Data analysis optimizes cyber-physical systems in telecommunications and building automation

18.01.2017 | Information Technology

Reducing household waste with less energy

18.01.2017 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>