Joanna Russell

Mellon Fellow: Technical imaging specialist and analysis of pigments and dyes

Department: Conservation and Scientific Research


+44 (0)20 7323 8795  

Joanna is a scientist specialising in technical imaging and in the analysis of pigments and dyes using a range of techniques.

Since joining the Museum in 2011 she has focussed on the examination of drawings, including a project on works by Leonardo da Vinci, and is now looking at the materials and techniques of metalpoint drawings. She is also currently carrying out work for the CHARISMA project, a collaborative research project operating between several partner institutions throughout Europe. This has involved testing improved methods for the analysis of plant dyes from historic textile and paint samples, and investigating methods for the identification of more modern synthetic dyes and pigments. 

Joanna completed a degree in Chemistry at Imperial College, London, before going on to do an MA in the Conservation of Fine Art at Northumbria University, specialising in easel paintings. After a two-year internship in paintings conservation at the Hamilton Kerr Institute, Cambridge she returned to Northumbria University to study for her PhD on the painting materials and techniques used by the artist Francis Bacon.


Current projects

The technical examination of metalpoint drawings, including technical imaging and non-invasive identification of materials.

CHARISMA project: Organic colorants in ancient and contemporary art

Previous projects

Technical examination of drawings by Leonardo da Vinci

External fellowships/ honorary positions/ membership of professional bodies

Member of the International Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (IIC)

Member of the Institute of Conservation (ICON)

Member of the International Council of Museums – Committee for Conservation (ICOM-CC)

Recent Publications

Ambers, J., Russell, J., Saunders, D. and Sloan, K., Hidden history?: examination of two patches on John White’s map of ‘Virginia’, British Museum Technical Research Bulletin, Volume 6 (2012) 47-54.

Russell, J. E., Singer, B.W., Perry J.J. and Bacon, A., Investigation of the materials found in the studio of Francis Bacon (1909-1992), Studies in Conservation, vol. 57, no. 4 (2012) 195-206.

Russell, J. E., Singer, B.W., Perry J.J. and Bacon, A., The materials and techniques used in the paintings of Francis Bacon (1909-1992), Studies in Conservation, vol. 57, no. 4 (2012) 207-217.

Russell, J., Singer, B.W., Perry J.J. and Bacon, A., ‘The identification of synthetic organic pigments in modern paints and modern paintings using pyrolysis gas chromatography mass spectrometry’, Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry, 400 (2011) 1473–1491.

Russell, J., ‘The Mystery of the Paint: Francis Bacon’s Materials’ in Francis Bacon New Studies Centenary Essays, edited by Martin Harrison, Steidl, (2009).