Dr. Duane R. Chartier is an inorganic chemist who entered paintings conservation via degrees in art history and art conservation. His knowledge of fundamentals in materials science and computing led him to the Getty Conservation Institute in Los Angeles, CA, and thence to ICCROM (International Center for the Study of the Preservation and the Restoration of Cultural Property) in Rome, where he coordinated the scientific program. During this time and since then he has practiced as an independent consultant for projects ranging from computer system design at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice to wall paintings analysis and treatment consultation in the Residenz in Salzburg, Austria. As a past president of a private conservation firm (1990-2015) and now an independent consultant, he has been engaged in fine art conservation, contemporary art installation, independently funded research related to conservation materials and new technologies for wall painting production and preservation as well as the scientific support for authentication of works of art.
A Few Qualifying Words
Well, that was then and this is now! A little history is often not a good thing. Many years ago I started this venture with an optimistic outlook and an undue belief that what I was proposing was correct -- That science could be very useful in supporting both art conservation and connoisseurship. Although many colleagues will disagree I would say that there has been remarkably little progress and many of my former associates have sworn off wasting any time in this area.
I still have not given up completely but I will admit that I was incredibly wrong about the victory of facts, logic and materials science would have over almost complete subjective opinion. The history of connoisseurship is intimately tied to the cult of the personality those who profess absolute certainty and authority about the veracity of what they say. This is very much intact when one sees that auction houses continue to use individuals who have the complete and utter say on what constitutes authenticity for any particular artist. Although some of these authorities have credential of various degrees of credibility some of the representations strain the bounds of common sense. I still believe that there is a set of proper approaches to take in determining the authenticity of works. These are better represented by the Rembrandt Research Project than by the Descharnes (Robert died in February 2014 but his son has carried on as an expert on Dal) or the Picasso Committee. My preferences for a scholarly and defensible approach are likely due to a rigorous education in the sciences.
To this end I have chosen to send Authentica (ICAI, Inc.) on a new course that will hopefully be more sensible and satisfying.
Duane R. Chartier, Los Angeles, 03/01/15