19 Jun 2024 9:30 - 12:30 SG1, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, Cambridge, CB3 9DP




  • Ellen Purdy (PhD Candidate, Yusuf Hamied Department of Chemistry)
  • Helen Bremm (PhD Candidate, Department of History of Art)


  • Flavia Fiorillo (Research Associate at the Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge, and Research Associate in Heritage Science at the Cambridge University Library)
  • Hugh Morrison (Collections Manager, West Dean College of Arts and Conservation)
  • Sandra Zetina Ocaña (Associate Researcher in Material Studies and Modern Art, Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas, and Laboratorio Nacional de Ciencias para la Investigación y Conservación del Patrimonio Cultural (LANCIC), Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México)
  • Camille Polkownik (Conservator of Easel Paintings, Hamilton Kerr Institute, Fitzwilliam Museum)


This symposium gives insights into the recent and first technical art historical studies of works by the British-born Mexican artist Leonora Carrington (1917–2011) in Mexico and the United Kingdom. One of Mexico’s best-known artists, the recent 2022 Venice Biennale d’Arte, titled after Carrington’s short story collection The Milk of Dreams, emphasised the increasing international popularity of her works and the strong resonance of her artistic vision in the present. We studied her painting technique and materials from an interdisciplinary perspective at the crossroads of conservation, art history, and scientific methods from chemistry and physics.

During the symposium, speakers will present short papers on their roles in the projects and show the breadth of expertise mobilised at the universities and beyond in collaborative technical art historical projects.

The event will present findings from the technical campaigns undertaken at the Museo Nacional de Antropología, together with colleagues from the museum and LANCIC-Física UNAM, in September 2023, and the most recent campaign at the Fitzwilliam Museum of works from the Sainsbury Centre for the Visual Arts and West Dean College, undertaken in March 2024.

The Cambridge-based technical campaign ‘Leonora Carrington’s Tempera Paintings, 1945–47’ was funded by a Conservation Research Grant from the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art.

If you have specific accessibility needs for this event please get in touch. We will do our best to accommodate any requests.

Supported by:

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9:30 -10:00

Registration and refreshments

10:00 - 10:10


10:10 - 11:00
  • Ellen Purdy and Helen Bremm
    Introduction to ‘Leonora Carrington’s Tempera Paintings, c.1945-47’, a collaborative technical art historical project in Cambridge
  • Hugh Morrison
    Leonora Carrington and West Dean College/The Edward James Foundation: Perspective of a collaborating institution
  • Ellen Purdy and Helen Bremm
    ‘Seeing through her paintings: Multispectral imaging of Carrington’s early tempera works’
11:00 - 11:10


11:10 - 12:30
  • Flavia Fiorillo
    ‘Heritage science at the University of Cambridge and non-invasive technical analysis applied to Carrington’s tempera paintings’
  • Camille Polkownik
    ‘A conservator’s perspective on the importance of material analysis for historical and preservation research and the complicated ethics of micro-sampling’
  • Sandra Zetina Ocaña and Helen Bremm
    ‘A collaborative technical study of Leonora Carrington’s El mundo mágico de los mayas (1963–64) in Mexico City’
  • Ellen Purdy and Helen Bremm
    Final remarks

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