Aviva Burnstock - The Courtauld Institute of Art

Aviva Burnstock

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Professor Aviva Burnstock

Professor and Head of the Department of Conservation and Technology

Aviva Burnstock is the Head of the Department of Conservation and Technology at The Courtauld Institute of Art, where she took a PhD (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).

Aviva’s research interests include investigation of the materials and techniques used for painting; and characterisation of visual and material changes; the application of new methods for technical study; evaluating methods for conservation practice (for example methods for cleaning paintings); focus on the deterioration and conservation issues for modern oil paint and paintings.


Teaching 2016-17

  • The PG Diploma in the conservation of easel paintings
  • BA History of Art Year 1: Physical History of works of art
  • Graduate Diploma in History of Art: Physical History of works of art

PhD Supervision


  • Silvia Amato: Combined Scanning Multispectral Infrared Reflectography and Macro-X-ray Fluorescence: an innovative approach to the study of materials and technique of five paintings by Édouard Manet at the Courtauld Gallery
  • Judith Lee: Collaborative Doctoral PhD with Tate (co-supervised with Bronwyn Ormsby) Preliminary title: ‘Investigating water sensitivity of Modern oil paints made by British manufactured paints by Winsor & Newton’.
  • Yasmin Amaratunga (jointly supervised with Julian Stallabrass) ‘The influence of new materials and conservation on the value of ephemeral contemporary art’. Yasmin is expected to submit her thesis in Spring 2015.
  • Caroline Rae: Leverhulme supported collaborative PhD at Courtauld Institute Art and the National Portrait Gallery ‘Anglo-Netherlandish Workshop Practice in the 1580s and early 1600s with a focus on the works of John de Critz the Elder and Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger’. Caroline is due to submit her thesis in March 2015.
  • Elisabeth Reissner (with Prof Paul Smith, University of Warwick) ‘Technical study within Art Historical Scholarship: ‘Meaning in Making’ with particular reference to the works of Paul Cézanne’. Elisabeth is due to submit her thesis in February 2015.
  • Rachel Mustalish ‘Materials and meaning: works on paper by Arthur Dove’
  • Emilie Froment (University of Amsterdam, co supervised with Professor Jorgen Wadum) ‘The effects of wax resin lining on seventeenth centruy paintings in the Royal Palace, Amsterdam’

Recently completed

  • Mark Richter, ‘The use of coloured glazes in Baroque churches in Bavaria, c1700-1800’ (2012)
  • Maria Kokkori,  ‘Making and meaning: Materials and Techniques of selected paintings by Malevitch and Popova from the Costakis Collection, Salonica’, co-supervised by Prof. Chris Green (2007)
  • Austin Nevin, ‘LIFS for analysis of proteins from works of art’, Marie Curie Scholarship holder, FORTH Crete PhD, co-supervised with Prof. Sharon Cather (2007)

Research interests

  • Technical study of paintings
  • Artists materials and techniques
  • Investigating visual and material change in works of art
  • Developing and evaluation of methods for conservation of paintings

Forthcoming publications

Books and edited books

  • Painting in Britain 1540-1620, contributing editor, British Academy, London, 2015, Chapter 1, ‘Interpreting technical evidence’,

Recent publications

Essays and articles

  • A technical study of Poussin’s Triumph of David, Dulwich Picture Gallery, Aviva Burnstock and Sophia Plender, KERMES, 2015.
  • ‘Seurat’s Hidden Self-portrait’, Aviva Burnstock and Karen Serres, The Burlington Magazine, Volume CLVI number 1333 April 2014, pp. 240-242.
  • ‘André Derain Trees by a Lake: Le Parc de Carrières-Saint-Denis Cleo Nisse’, Francesca Whitlum-Cooper and Aviva Burnstock, Art Matters 6, 2015, pp. 10-19.
  • A technical study of portraits of King James VI and I attributed to John de Critz the Elder (d.1642): artist, workshop and copies’ in European Paintings 15th-18th Century, Copying, Replicating and Emulating, Caroline Rae and Aviva Burnstock. Centre for Art Technological Studies (CATS). Copenhagen, 2014, pp. 58-66.
  • ‘A cause of water-sensitivity in modern oil paint films: The formation of magnesium sulphate’, Studies in Conservation, Silvester, G., Burnstock, A., Megens, L., Learner, T., Chiari, G., van den Berg, K J., Vol. 59 (1), 2014, pp. 38-51.
  • Issues in Contemporary Oil Paint, Klaas Jan van den Berg, Aviva Burnstock, Matthijs de Keijzer, Jay Krueger, Tom Learner, Alberto de Tagle,and Gunnar Heydenreich Eds, Springer International Publns Switzerland (2015). Includes the following chapters:
    • Aviva Burnstock and Klaas Jan van den Berg, The Interface Between Science and Conservation and the Challenges for Modern Oil Paint Research
    • Alysia Sawicka, Aviva Burnstock, Klaas Jan van den Berg, Francesca Izzo, Katrien Keune, Jaap Boon and Kathrin Kirsch, Metal soap efflorescence in contemporary oil painting.
    • Anna Cooper, Aviva Burnstock, Klaas jan van den Berg, Bronwyn Ormsby, Water Sensitive Oil Paints in the 20th Century: A study of the distribution of water-soluble degradation products in modern oil paint films.
  • Technical Examination of Works by Camille and Lucien Pissarro from the Courtauld Gallery‘, Lydia Gutierrez and Aviva Burnstock, Art Matters, vol. 5, 2013, pp. 13, 16.

Recent Major Grants

  • Collaborator on National Portrait Gallery and Sussex University project Making Art in Tudor Britain (2009-2014) – supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the  Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, British Academy, The Leverhulme Trust, The Mercers’ Company, The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, The Märit and Hans Rausing Trust, PF Charitable Trust, The John S Cohen Trust, The Leche Trust, The Idlewild Trust and an anonymous benefactor.

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