Techniques: Plastic on the Palette

Ars longa, vita brevis to the contrary, most "immortal" paintings are all too perishable. Oil paintings in particular suffer from uneven temperatures, direct sunlight, or smog. Some of the finest works of Rembrandt, a meticulous craftsman, have darkened and yellowed after three centuries; several Van Gogh canvases are in danger of disintegration after only 75 or 80 years. As for abstract expressionist paintings, which are characteristically encrusted with heavy, hastily applied impastos—often by artists who are relatively untutored in the complexities of oil technique—museums find that they should be periodically turned...

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