Post graduate diploma thesis - The treatment and preservation of a gypsum and latex sculpture by Louise Bourgeois

Posted on Tue, 05/18/2010 - 10:50

by Evelyne Snijders
Graduate Conservation Modern and Contemporary Art

SRAL (Stichting Restauratie Atelier Limburg)


Research began in June 2008

Double Negative=positive

Restoration, latex, gypsum, Louise Bourgeois

The main subject of this thesis is the restoration of the sculpture “Double Negative” (1963) by Louise Bourgeois from the collection of the Kröller-Müller museum. Double Negative (49,2 x 92,2 x 79,6 cm, ca. 75kg) is made of a large gypsum main body and has a natural rubber latex skin (consisting of two colours; the latex of the top part of the sculpture has a darker colour than that of the lower part). The problems concerning the sculpture were several cracks and broken pieces in the gypsums main body,  and damages of  the degraded latex skin. The main goal of the restoration was to repair the constructive damages in the gypsum, investigate the condition of the large gypsum inner form and fill the losses in the latex skin.
Prior to the restoration of this artwork several researches were carried out. An extensive literature study of the main materials (gypsum and latex) was done, an X-ray and UV-light investigations, and samples of the latex skin were taken for research. The analytical research methods were cross section analyses, FTIR and SEM-EDX. The X-ray research was carried out to investigate the condition of the inner gypsum main form and the built-up of the internal construction (made of wood, textile and metal mesh). The Cross sections were analyzed with a research microscope and SEM-EDX to confirm the assumption of the presence of a pigment in the lower, lighter colored part of the latex skin. After analyses of the artwork’s materials, a series of tests were set up in the restoration studio, to search for proper conservation materials to consolidate and fill the latex skin.

Drs. Lydia Beerkens, Drs. Sanneke Sigter

Dutch, English summary