Cast in a new light: Surface topographies of Paul Gauguin’s transfer drawings

Mary E. Broadway, Harriet K. Stratis, Marc S. Walton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Starting in the 1890s the artist Paul Gauguin (1848–1903) created a series of prints and transfer drawings using techniques that are not entirely understood. To better understand the artist’s production methods, conservators from the Art Institute of Chicago and computer scientists from Northwestern University adapted the principles of Photometric Stereo (PS) to assess the surface shape of a number of these graphic works that are now in the institute’s collection. PS uses multiple images of these works captured from a fixed camera position lit from numerous but specific angles to create an interactive composite image that reveals textural characteristics. These dynamic images reveal details of sequential media application upon experimental printing matrices that help resolve longstanding art historical questions about the evolution of Gauguin’s printing techniques. This study promotes the use of PS to capitalise on the increasing popularity of Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) among conservators in the world’s leading museums.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)206-217
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of the Institute of Conservation
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2 2018


  • Monotype
  • Paul Gauguin
  • Photometric Stereo (PS)
  • Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI)
  • Surface topography
  • Transfer drawing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Conservation


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