The first technical study of Kurt Schwitters’ small sculptures and three-dimensional mixed-media collages known as assemblages, made in the 1940s in Britain, was carried out using low magnification and ultraviolet examination, and x-radiography. Paint and plaster samples were analysed using SEM/EDX, FTIR and examination of cross sections. Some sculptures were modelled in either plaster of Paris or chalk on an internal armature, some were assembled with nails and some are held together only by plaster and/or paint. Commercial oil and oil/alkyd household paints were found, and a few artists’ paints. The paints contained large amounts of zinc soaps, as well as zinc formate dihydrate. Microfadometry of the coloured paints indicated that neither surface appearance nor colour gave any guide to lightfastness, and that many of the paints had moderate to poor lightfastness for which display in low lighting would be appropriate. Three works containing Hansa red (PR4) proved extremely light-sensitive.
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