National Art Library Visit – Research

National Art Library Visit – Research



There is scant information about contemporary art in the National Library, but I did find some reference to Jackson Pollock’s painting methods.



Difficulties In The Scientific Study of Synthetic Materials In Paints 




My dissertation mentions the consistencies of paints and their comparison to different sorts of particles found in a cloud chamber. The ‘Jackson Pollock painting’ will display different strokes and intensities of line depending on how he has ‘flung the paint, like a lasso’.


Pollock’s introduction of synthetic binders and resins – ethyl silicate – was ‘one of the most important revolutions in the history of painting’ . (1)

There is a difference between the look of an alpha and beta particle track.

The work of Wilson, the inventor of the Wilson chamber, has also been held in similarly high esteem. Rutherford described his invention as  ‘the most original and wonderful instrument in scientific history.’


‘I had in view the possibility that the track of an ionising particle might be made visible and photographed by condensing water on the ions which it liberated’ – this introduction of condensed water to visualise these ionising particles could be compared to Pollock’s introduction of synthetic binders. Because of the synthetic binders, the paints would now dry at a much faster rate, changing painting as an art form for practitioners.

Wilson’s chamber would go on to be further developed by Blackett who made many important discoveries with it, notably the demonstration of the creation and annihilation of electron-positron pairs. Particle physics has become useful in a day-to-day way – X-ray, proton and ion therapies are used to treat cancer, and the rays can also determine the precise structure of viruses and mutations that cause disease and screen potential drug candidates.

‘Why is physics useful? Think of an expedition climbing Mount Everest. Is someone climbing Everest useful to you in everyday life? Not at first glance, no matter how interesting it is for its own sake. But fleece jackets and breathable waterproof fabrics were first developed for serious mountaineering expeditions and are now cheap and indispensable.’


By Kelen Tuttle, ‘Why particle physics matters’


The ‘scientific development’ of the art of painting, which changed the length of time people need to wait for their paints to dry, could be compared to the development of particle physics – from understanding more about the universe to cancer treatment.

Both, it would seem, improve the quality of life of people and practitioners. Was Pollock’s ‘discovery’ inadvertent, or does it matter?

Wilson set out with a clear goal – to imitate the Brockenspectre in laboratory settings.

Could it be the inadvertency of art that separates it from the purposeful science?






(1). Lodge.R.G.,  A history of synthetic painting media with special reference to commercial materials, American Institute for Conservation pre-prints of the 16th Annual Meeting, (1988), pp.118-127.