Professor Aviva Burnstock

Professor of Conservation

Aviva Burnstock is a Professor of  Conservation 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 2020-21

  • 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
  • Patricia Smithen (from October 2015) CDP Tate, Preliminary title: The production and use of acrylic paints in Britain, co supervised with Dr Bronwyn Ormsby, Tate.
  • PhD Amarili Rava:Consolidation of earthen supports in wall paintings (with Emma Richardson, UCL from 2018)
  • Sreekumar Menon: A technical study of Wall paintings in Ladahk (from 2019)

Recently completed

  • Rachel Mustalish ‘Materials and meaning: works on paper by Arthur Dove’
  • Alexandra Gent (from October 2015) Repetition and Replication in Sir Joshua Reynolds’s Studio Practice, co supervised with Prof David Solkin (CHASE funded).
  • Emilie Froment (University of Amsterdam, co supervised with Professor Jorgen Wadum) ‘The effects of wax resin lining on seventeenth century paintings in the Royal Palace, Amsterdam’
  • D Judith Lee (from September 2013) CDP/AHRC (with Tate, co supervised with Bronwyn Ormsby) Modern British Oils: history, formulation and use. Viva set for March 7th 2018

PG Diploma final year research projects

Christine Wilder  (2021): Exploring the potential of  Fluorescence lifetime imaging spectroscopy (FLIMS) for characterisation of picture varnishes

Rebecca Chipkin (2021): Application of micro CT scanning for dendrochronology of panel paintings

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

Publications in preparation

Modigliani’s Nudes materials and techniques Tate Papers, co authors Lena Stringari, Isabelle Duvernois, Michael Duffy, Barbara Buckley,  to be submitted April 2020.

Modigliani’s Nudes, leading author (Tate Papers, draft now with editors Simonetta Fraquelli and Nancy Ireson) to submit final paper in December 2020 (delayed from April due to Covid).

A History of the Department of Conservation & Technology 1934-2020, co-authored with Roxanne Sperber; two substantial papers for Studies in Conservation. Draft of the first paper covering 1934-1976 is completed, second in progress planned for submission of both papers in December 2020.

A Chapter on The role of technical study and chemical analysis on questions of attribution and dating of paintings and on easel painting conservation practice: Selected case studies

Springer Nature book series edited by Perla Colombini and Austin Nevin, to be submitted by the end of November 2020.

A Chapter on Diagnostics, education of painting conservators and decision making in painting conservation

Conservation 360, DIAGNOSIS BEFORE, DURING, AFTER, A. Murray, L Fuster and A Vila eds. (draft submitted August 2020)


Two collaborative papers now submitted for peer review:

Submitted to Studies in Conservation: The characterisation of oil bound copper green glazes in a 17th Century harpsichord lid,   Waldron K, Burnstock A, van den Berg KJ, van Eikema Hommes M,  Megans L, van Keulen H and de Groot, S.

Submitted to the Journal of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry: Surface acoustic wave nebulization mass spectrometry (SAWN-MS) as a new tool to investigate the water sensitivity of 20th Century oil paints, Astefanae, A, van den Berg, KJ, Burnstock A, Corthals G.

Now published

Burnstock A, and MacDougall S, What Lies Beneath: Technical Discoveries, Intention and Practice in the early Work of Mark Gertler, Tales of the Unexpected in paintings Conservation, Mary Kempski, Jo Kirby, Victoria Leanse, Kristina Mandy Eds, Archetype publns  (2020) p131-137.

Aviva Burnstock, Sarah MacDougall, “Signs of a Struggle: Process, Technique, and Materials in the Early Work of Mark Gertler, 1911–18”, British Art Studies, Issue 15,

Conservation of Modern Oil Paintings, van den Berg, K.J., Bonaduce, I., Burnstock, A., Ormsby, B., Scharff, M., Carlyle, L., Heydenreich, G., Keune, K. (Eds.), Springer (2019) ISBN 978-3-030-19254-9

Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s grisaille paintings, Aviva Burnstock and Karen Serres in  Bruegel, Hand of the Master, essays in context, Hannibal  publ)   p.82-85,  2019.

Conservation issues of modern oil paintings: a molecular model on paint curing. Ilaria Bonaduce, Celia Duce, Anna Lluveras-Tenorio, Judith Lee, Bronwyn Ormsby, Aviva Burnstock and Klaas Jan van den Berg, American Chemical Society.  Acc. Chem. Research DOI10.1021/acs.accounts.9b00296 A-J. 2019

Ilaria Bonaduce, Celia Duce, Anna Lluveras-Tenorio, Judith Lee, Bronwyn Ormsby, Aviva Burnstock and Klaas Jan van den Berg, American Chemical Society.  Acc. Chem. Research DOI10.1021/acs.accounts.9b00296 A-J. 2019

Burnstock A. (2019) Taking Different Forms: Metal Soaps in Paintings, Diagnosis of Condition, and Issues for Treatment.

  1. Higgs S., Burnstock A. (2019) An Investigation into Metal Ions in Varnish Coatings.

In: Casadio F. et al. (eds) Metal Soaps in Art. Cultural Heritage Science. Springer, Cham

Print ISBN 978-3-319-90616-4

Online ISBN 978-3-319-90617-1

Amato S.R., Burnstock A., Cross M., Janssens K., Rosi F., Cartechini L., Fontana R., Dal Fovo A., Paolantoni M., Grazia C., Romani A., Michelin A., Andraud C., Tournié A., Dik J., ‘Interpreting technical evidence from spectral imaging of paintings by Edouard Manet in the Courtauld Gallery’, X-Ray Spectrometry, 2018; 1-11. DOI: 10.1002/xrs.2828

Jacopo La Nasa, Judith Lee, Ilaria Degano, Aviva Burnstock, Klaas Jan van den Berg, Bronwyn Ormsby, and Ilaria Bonaduce The role of the polymeric network in the water sensitivity of modern oil paints Microchemical Journal vol 138 May 2018 p282-295.

Aviva Burnstock, Lena Stringari and Isabelle Duvernois, Modiglianis’s Painted Nudes, Burlington Magazine April 2018, No. 1381 Vol 160 p.319-324.

Aviva Burnstock The influence of science and technology on the conservation and technical study of paintings in the last 50 years: a personal viewpoint in The Picture so Far: 50 Years of Painting Conservation, edited by Abigail Granville, Laura Hinde, Sophie Plender, Hayley Tomlinson and Nancy Wade, Archetype publns. 2018, p32-58. 

ICOM CC Copenhagen congress September 2017:

  1. a. Insoluble surface spots, metal soaps and challenges in the conservation of Goya’s Portrait of Francisco de Saavedra, Aviva Burnstock*, Maureen Cross and Karen Serres 

    b. The chemical characterisation of water sensitive modern oil paint swatches by Winsor & NewtonJudith Ann Lee, * Bronwyn Ann Ormsby,  Aviva Burnstock, Klaas Jan van den Berg.

    c. Water sensitivity of modern oil paintings, Lucia Bay,  Aviva Burnstock,* Judith Lee,  Bronwyn Ormsby and Klaas Jan van den Berg.

    d. Bronwyn Ormsby, Jae Youn Chung, Burnstock, van den Berg, Judith Lee, An investigation of options for surface cleaning unvarnished water-sensitive oil paints based on recent developments for acrylic paints

Amato SR, Burnstock A, Cross M, et al. Interpreting technical evidence from spectral imaging of paintings by Édouard Manet in the Courtauld Gallery. X‐Ray Spectrometry. 2018;1–11.

A molecular study of modern oil paintings: investigating the role of dicarboxylic acids in the water sensitivity of modern oil paintsDonatella Banti, Jacopo La Nasa, Anna Lluveras Tenorio, Francesca Modugno, Klaas Jan van den Berg, Judith Lee, Bronwyn.Ormsby, Aviva Burnstock, Ilaria Bonaduce, Royal society of Chemistry RSC Adv., 2018, 8, 6001.


Painting in Britain 1500-1630, Production, Influences and Patronage, Tarnya Cooper, Aviva Burnstock, Maurice Howard and Edward Town eds., British Academy OUP publn. (2015) ISBN 978-0-19-726584-0 includes leading essay Interpreting the results of technical analysis 94-105.

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 (2014), ISBN978-3-319-10100-2.