BSc. Neurobiology 1981 (University of Sussex); Postgraduate Diploma in the Conservation of Easel Painting Courtauld Institute (1984), PhD Courtauld Institute (1991)

Contact details:

Department of Conservation & Technology

The Courtauld Institute of Art

Somerset House





+44 (0)20 7848 2192


Dr Aviva Burnstock
Aviva Burnstock is the Head of the Department of Conservation & Technology at The Courtauld Institute of Art, where she took a Ph.D. (1991) and a Diploma in the Conservation of Easel Paintings (1984). From 1986-1992 she worked in the Scientific Department of the National Gallery, London after a year as a paintings conservator in Australia with the Regional Galleries Association of New South Wales. Her first degree is in Neurobiology (BSc. University of Sussex 1981). She was awarded the first Joop Los Fellowship at the Institute for Molecular Physics (AMOLF /FOM) Amsterdam in 2003, and is a Fellow of the International Institute for Conservation (IIC).

Current research/interests:

  • Technical study of paintings
  • Research into the materials and techniques of painting, and conservation processes (e.g. methods for cleaning paintings)

Current projects include

Investigation of the phenomena of water sensitive oil paint in  19th and 20thC paintings  (in collaboration with the  Instituut Collectie Nederland (ICN), the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI)) and Tate.

The effects of methods for surface cleaning painted surfaces

Technical study of paintings

Investigation of a putative altarpiece attributed by the Master of the Fogg Pietà- Maestro di  Figline and development of  a website for international collaborative research (funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation).

Making Art in Tudor Britain (collaboration with the National Portrait Gallery, London)

Investigating criteria for removal of varnish from paintings for display of the unvarnished surface ( collaboration with the Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam)

Recent publications


In the press:

An evaluation of changes in the appearance of 19thC grounds on canvas on varnishing and varnish removal. Meredith Watson and Aviva Burnstock, Cleaning 2010, Valencia.

Cézanne’s development of the Card Players; essay for the forthcoming exhibition Cezanne’s Card Players, Courtauld Gallery October 2010


A technical study of Cassone panels from the Courtauld Gallery, Tilly Schmidt, Caroline Campbell, Aviva Burnstock, for Zietschrift für Kunsttechnologie und Koneserviereung ZKK 23/2 2010, 315-326, ISSN: 0931-7198

Impressionist paintings In the Courtauld Gallery: making inferences from recent technical studies, Zietschrift für Kunsttechnologie und Koneserviereung ZKK 2009/1 72-79.

Water sensitivity of modern artists’ oil paints, L. Mills, A. Burnstock, H. van Keulen, F. Duarte and K.J. van den Berg, ICOM Committee for Conservation 15th Triennial Meeting, New Delhi, 2008, .651-659. 

A non-invasive XRF study supported by multivariate statistical analysis and reflectance FTIR to assess the composition of modern painting materials

Francesca Rossi, Aviva Burnstock, Klaas JanVan den Berg, Costanza Miliani, Brunetto Giovanni Brunetti and Antonio Sgamellotti , Spectrochimica Acta vol 71/5 2009, 1655-1662.

Courses taught in 2010-11

Postgraduate Diploma in the Conservation of Easel Paintings

PhD titles/ RECENT postgraduate research supervised



  • An examination of the methodology of technical art history with reference to Cezanne’s paintings
  • Materials and meaning:  Arthur Dove’s works on paper.
  • The use of coloured glazes in Baroque churches in Bavaria, c1700-1800)


  • Materials and Techniques of selected paintings by Malevitch and Popova  from the Costakis Collection.
  • The application of laser induced fluorescence spectroscopy (LIFS) for analysis of proteins from works of art
  • Collaboration between artists of the Barbizon School on landscape paintings 
  • An investigation of the causes of whitening in 20thC paintings from Dudmaston Hall, Shropshire. 
  • Water sensitive oil paint: An experimental investigation with case studies
  • The Removal of Non-Original Varnish from Impressionist and Post Impressionist Paintings
  • The Effects of Wax-resin Lining and Varnishing on Historically Accurate Reconstructions of van Gogh’s Grounds
  • The Relationship of Camille and Lucien Pissarro considered with evidence from a technical examination of their works from the Courtauld Collection
  • A technical study of paintings by Allen Jones (b1937) from 1961 to 1966  from the José de Azeredo Perdigão Modern Art Centre, Lisbon including a treatment proposal for Dance with the Head and the Legs (1963).
  • Van Gogh’s studio practice in context – Influences in Paris, 1886-1888


Conservation of paintings, technical art history, analysis of painting materials, technical examination of paintings, conservation materials and methods.