Presenting The Unvarnished Truth: <br/>Exhibition and Events

Presenting The Unvarnished Truth:
Exhibition and Events

September 2, 2015 | Published by MMA


THE UNVARNISHED TRUTH: exploring the material history of paintings

McMaster Museum of Art
August 27 – 19 December 2015

The Unvarnished Truth brings together discoveries made by an international team of nearly 30 researchers―scholars of applied radiation sciences, anthropology, art history, biomedical engineering, as well as conservators, conservation scientists, forensic art historians, and curators―who worked together to examine nine historical paintings from the collections of the McMaster Museum of Art including our works by Van Gogh, Van der Neer and Jawlensky (full list below).  In addition to the touring exhibition, this research project includes a publication, a website, and a series of public events.

The Unvarnished Truth was conceived by Brandi Lee MacDonald at McMaster University in 2010 as a series of conversations about the potential for non-destructive techniques to analyze works of art, and quickly evolved to become a multidisciplinary, collaborative study. Initial research questions on themes including painting technique, materials, attribution, connoisseurship, and stability, led to even more interesting questions. The result is a series of unique narratives not only about the paintings but also about the research process itself.

The complementary website, to launch at, will allow everyone to see the research, zoom in on high resolution details, and explore beneath the surface of the paint. See layers revealed only by IRR, Xray, RTI and UV analysis as well as researchers’ notes.

Vincent van Gogh
Aert van der Neer
Alexej von Jawlensky
Workshop of Adriaen Brouwer
Manner of Edwaert Collier
Circle of Jan Gossart (called Mabuse)
Alexander Mikhailovich Rodchenko
Workshop of Peter Paul Rubens
Unknown Venetian (16th century)
The presentation at McMaster also includes a painting by Edwaert Collier, generously loaned by the Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation, Houston, Texas.

Brandi Lee MacDonald  (Research Associate, Dept of Applied Radiation Sciences, McMaster University)
Nenagh Hathaway (PhD Candidate, Art History, Queen’s University)
Fiona McNeill  (Department of Medical Physics & Applied Radiation Sciences and Associate VP, Research, McMaster University)
Ihor Holubizky  (Senior Curator, MMA)
Ron Spronk  (Professor, Art History, Queen’s University and Radboud University, The Netherlands)
Gianfranco Pocobene  (Head of Conservation, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston)
Alison Murray  (Associate Professor, Art Conservation, Queen’s University)
Julie Bronson (Collections Administrator, MMA)
Carol Podedworny (Director/Chief Curator, MMA)

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(all are free and open to the public)

RECEPTION: Thursday, September 17, 2015, 6 – 8 pm

TALK/TOUR:  September 25 at 12:30 pm
with Brandi Lee MacDonald (Research Associate, Dept of Applied Radiation Sciences, McMaster University).
A Culture Days and Lifelong Learning Week event.

LECTURE BY RESEARCHERS: Thursday, October 1, 1:30 – 2:20 pm
Brandi Lee MacDonald (Research Associate, Dept of Applied Radiation Sciences, McMaster University).
Nenagh Hathaway (PhD Candidate, Art History, Queen’s University)

PANEL DISCUSSION: Thursday, November 12, 6 – 8 pm
Fiona McNeill (Professor, Department of Medical Physics & Applied Radiation Sciences / Associate-VP Research, McMaster University)
Lloyd DeWitt (Curator of European Art, Art Gallery of Ontario)
Brandi Lee MacDonald (Research Associate, Dept of Applied Radiation Sciences, McMaster University)
Alison Murray (Associate Professor, Art Conservation, Queen’s University)
Ihor Holubizky (Senior Curator, McMaster Museum of Art)
Mike Noseworthy (Associate Professor, Electrical & Computer Engineering, McMaster University)

*      *      *      *      * 

TOUR VENUES include McMaster Museum of Art, Sep 5 – Dec 19, 2015; Art Gallery of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Apr 30 – Sep 18, 2016; Thunder Bay Art Gallery, Thunder Bay, ON, Oct 7 – Nov 27, 2016; and Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Kingston, ON, Jan 7 – Apr 9, 2017

This is one of many collaborative exhibition projects developed and produced by the McMaster Museum of Art since 2006. In partnership with faculty and student researchers across disciplines, the MMA has worked with departments as varied as Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour; Family Medicine; Physics & Astronomy; Studio Art; English & Cultural Studies; Theatre & Film Studies; and Classics, among others, to produce exhibitions where varied discipline-specific research crosses over into the realm of visual culture.

The Unvarnished Truth is organized and circulated by the McMaster Museum of Art with the generous support of the McMaster University Office of Research and the Museums Assistance Program, Canadian Heritage.
For more information please contact:
Carol Podedworny (Director/Chief Curator, MMA), 905-525-9140 x.26452
For images please contact: Julie Bronson (Collections Administrator, MMA),, 905-525-9140 x.27479
To book a tour please contact: Nicole Knibb (Education Coordinator, MMA), 905-525-9140 x.27576

McMaster Museum of Art

Alvin A. Lee Building
McMaster University
1280 Main St W
Hamilton, ON L8S 4L6
905-525-9140 ext. 23241

Admission to the Museum and events is Free
Open Hours: Tuesday/Wednesday/Friday 11 am – 5 pm, Thursday 11 – 7, and Saturday 12 – 5