A few guests have commented recently concerning a strange phenomenon that they have noticed on Andrew Wyeth’s 1996 painting, Airborne. The painting has developed several patches of whitish haze that have been spreading over time.
There is no need for alarm. This hazy efflorescence is a result of a chemical process in the work’s egg tempera paint. As the egg medium ages, certain fatty acids leach out and migrate to the surface as powdery crystals. It’s a reaction seen regularly in Wyeth paintings, and it lessens over time.
“This is a fairly recent Wyeth painting,” explained paintings conservator Gay Myers. “Typically, as the paintings age, the reaction gradually gets less and less and eventually it calms down. In paintings that are 40 to 50 years old, it’s much more subtle.”
Troubling as the white bloom appears, it’s actually not difficult to remedy. Some gentle buffing with brushes or silk have now cleared the haze away … at least until the next bloom. It will likely return, in anywhere from a few months to a year or more, but the efflorescence does no damage to the artwork.