Samuel H. Kress Lecture

The Institute of Fine Arts' Samuel H. Kress Lecture, delivered by a prominent scholar in conservation, presents important issues within the fields of paintings conservation and technical art history. This annual event is made possible through the generosity of the Samuel H. Kress Foundation.

The Kress Lecture is held in the Institute’s first floor Lecture Hall at 1 East 78th Street.
Reservation required. Open to the Institute's community and guests only. RSVP to

Please check the events calendar for upcoming lectures in this series.



Barbara H. Berrie, Head of the Scientific Research Department and Senior Conservation Scientist at the National Gallery of Art
Title: "Shimmery and Shiny: pigments used to depict light"

Watch Barbara H. Berrie's talkonline [opens in new window]

Description: Early modern artists desired mimetic effects, striving to depict glossy silk, reflective armor, or translucent flesh. The artist and author Leon Battista Alberti (1402-1472) said depicting gold using other materials was a sign of artistic skill. Using analysis of pigments, this presentation seeks to question whether painters tried to exploit the inherent optical qualities of pigments, such as lustre or transparency, to imitate the visible world.

Barbara H. Berrie is head of the scientific research department and senior conservation scientist at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. She provides scientific and technical support to all aspects of conservation and preservation of the National Gallery’s collections. She also studies history of use of artists’ pigments.


Larry Keith, Head of Conservation and Keeper, The National Gallery, London
Title: "Rubens’ Het Steen: A Restoration in Context"

Watch Larry Keith's lecture online [opens in new window]

Description: The recent restoration of Rubens’ Het Steen landscape brought about a significant change in the appearance of the work, done in advance of its pairing with the Wallace Collection’s Rainbow Landscape. It also occasioned a program of interdisciplinary research by the Gallery’s conservation, scientific, and curatorial staff, work which has brought new understanding of its technique and evolution. The panel is yet another example of an unusual additive working method, perhaps unique to Rubens, a context which has been provided by the important research undertaken in recent years in New York, Vienna, Madrid, and elsewhere.

Larry Keith studied painting conservation at the Hamilton Kerr Institute, University of Cambridge. He joined the National Gallery Conservation Department in 1991, and has headed the Conservation department since 2010. He has published extensively on painting conservation and technique in the Gallery’s Technical Bulletin and elsewhere, and has made major contributions to the catalogues of the Gallery’s exhibitions on Velazquez, Leonardo, and Artemisia.


Sue Ann Chui
"New narratives for Old Masters: reflections on works by Gerard David and Ercole de’ Roberti"

Description: Beyond the pictorial narrative that a painter presents, the artist and the work of art share another story through the materiality of the object. A conservator’s work, in collaboration with scientists and curators, often reveals the choices an artist makes in the matter and the process of artistic production, and the life that the work has had since leaving the studio. Two such studies of panel paintings from the 15th century will be presented: the wings of a triptych by the Flemish artist Gerard David; and a pair of predella panels by the Ferrarese artist Ercole de’ Roberti. Both projects culminated in separate focus exhibitions at the J. Paul Getty Museum that put a spotlight on the materiality of the artworks. The manufacture and treatment of the paintings, the challenges and the opportunities for displaying them alongside the discoveries made possible by conservation research will be shared.

Sue Ann Chui joined the staff of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC as Painting Conservator in 2019 specializing in the care of panel paintings. Prior to this, she was Associate Conservator at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles where she worked for fourteen years. Sue Ann earned her MA in Art History and Diploma in Conservation from the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University in 1999 after completing her internship at the Hamilton Kerr Institute, a department of the Fitzwilliam Museum at the University of Cambridge. Through her treatments and technical studies of Old Master Paintings, she has contributed to exhibitions, and has published on the materials and techniques of artists that include Andrea del Sarto, Ercole de’ Roberti, and the workshop of Leonardo da Vinci.

This lecture is generously funded by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation.

Elise Effmann Clifford, Head of Paintings Conservation, Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco
"Never Assume: Stories of Artistic Idiosyncrasies and Scholarly Biases"

Watch Elise Clifford's talk online [opens in new window]

Description: At a symposium on Authenticity in Art History at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1994, the art historian Charles Rhyne stated that since “everything is an authentic something, our question should be not ‘Is it authentic?’ but ‘What is it?’” This question implies an approach toward questions of authenticity and attribution that is open and objective. However, the ambiguities inherent in questioned paintings and other artworks often result in certain patterns in research borne from our unconscious biases. We desire resolving the unknown to arrive at a state of cognitive ease and, in doing so, often unknowingly take short-cuts in our reasoning to come to decisions based on information that in hindsight may be inaccurate, incomplete, or irrelevant.

The talk will focus on three paintings, once attributed to Canaletto, John Constable, and Amedeo Modigliani, which although dissimilar in their visual attributes, share many common threads in their stories. In each case, ambiguities in provenance and idiosyncracies in artistic technique raised questions about authenticity. The technical study of each painting to answer the question “What is it?” will be discussed and the impact our cognitive biases have on our perception will be considered.

Elise Effmann Clifford is the Head of Paintings Conservation at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco where she has been since 2007. Prior to working at the Museums, she was the Assistant Conservator of Paintings at the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, and an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in Paintings Conservation at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. She received her M.A. in Art History and Diploma in Conservation from the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University in 2000, after completing her final year internship at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Elise has published on such diverse topics as the historical views of Jan van Eyck’s painting medium, the rediscovery of a painting by Thomas Cole, the materials and techniques of the 17th century French artists the Le Nain Brothers, and misconceptions about the painting medium of the Pre-Raphaelite painter John Roddam Spencer Stanhope.

Dorothy Mahon, Conservator, Paintings Conservation, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
“On the Conservation of Rembrandt Paintings in New York, 1891–2018”

Rupert Featherstone, The Hamilton-Kerr Institute, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK

Watch Featherstone's lecture online [opens in new window]

Michael Gallagher, Sherman H. Fairchild Conservator in Charge, Department of Paintings Conservation, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
“Brokering Truths”

Watch Gallagher's lecture online [opens in new window]

Laurence Kanter and Irma Passeri
"The Conservation of Early Italian Panel Paintings at Yale: Past and Present"

Iris Schaefer, Head of the Department of Technology and Conservation, Wallraf-Richartz-Museum and Fondation Corboud, Cologne, Germany

Watch Iris Schaefer online [opens in new window]

Cecilia FrosininiConservator, Opificio delle Pietre Dure
Claire Barry, Chief Conservator, Kimbell Art Museum
"Sleight of Hand: Comparing the painting techniques in Caravaggio's Cardsharps and La Tour's Cheat with the Ace of Clubs at the Kimbell Art Museum"

Petria Noble
"Reconstructing Original Formats: Technical Examination of Rembrandt paintings in the Mauritshuis"

Jill Dunkerton
"In Search of Verrocchio as a Painter: The Cleaning and Examination of Two Panels at the National Gallery, London"

Mark S. Tucker
"The Recovery of Pictorial Ideas"

Anne van Grevenstein-Kruse
"The Restoration of the Oranjezaal, Huis ten Bosch: Restoring a lost spatial unity"

Ashok Roy
"The re-emergence of the 'Madonna of the Pinks' and Raphael’s early painting practice"