Oral History Center - UC Berkeley Library

Michael R. Schilling: Chemical Analysis of Art at the Getty Conservation Institute

Schilling, Michael R.
Eardley-Pryor, Roger
Michael R. Schilling: Chemical Analysis of Art at the Getty Conservation Institute
Michael R. Schilling is a chemist and head of Materials Characterization at the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI), which focuses on the development of analytical methods for studying chemical materials used by artists and conservators. Schilling was born on December 4, 1957 in Los Angeles, where he has lived his entire life. He completed both his Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Chemistry at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, in 1983 and 1990, respectively. Schilling, who began work in the GCI as an Assistant Scientist in 1983, has worked in every GCI location: in its Getty Villa laboratory, then in its Marina del Rey facility, and now in the GCI's Materials Characterization laboratory at the Getty Center where he is a Senior Scientist. Through the GCI, Schilling helped conserve the 3,200-year-old wall paintings in the Tomb of Queen Nefertari in Egypt as well as the Buddhist cave paintings of the Mogao Grottoes, a World Heritage Site in northwestern China. Schilling has since specialized in developing new research methodologies specific to the needs of art conservators with creative combinations of gas chromatography, mass spectrometry, and thermal analysis applications. Schilling's recent research activities in Materials Characterization involve a range of both traditional and contemporary art materials, including analysis of Asian lacquers, plastics (especially those used in Disney animation cels), and modern paints (especially those mixed by Dutch-American artist Willem de Kooning). A key element of Schilling's work includes improving analytical protocols and then teaching these procedures to leading scientists and art conservators from around the world in analytical workshops. In this interview, Schilling discusses all of these topics as well as the influence of key mentors and the importance of his Christian faith to his marriage and fatherhood of two children.
Subject area(s):
Arts and Letters
Science, Technology, and Health
Interview date(s):
Getty Trust
Michael R. Schilling, "Michael R. Schilling: Chemical Analysis of Art at the Getty Conservation Institute" conducted by Roger Eardley-Pryor in 2019, Oral History Center, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, under the auspices of the J. Paul Getty Trust, 2020.