Alan Phenix is a paintings conservator, conservation educator and conservation scientist. Recently retired, from November 2006 he was employed as ‘Scientist’ at the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI), Los Angeles. In his first years at GCI he worked partly for the Museum Research Laboratory (MRL) and partly for the Modern & Contemporary Art Research group. That work involved mostly chemical analysis of painting materials and the study of artists’ techniques; also materials analysis and testing. From mid-2014 he led a newly formed ‘Treatment Studies’ research area of GCI Science aimed at evaluation of conservation methods and materials.
Alan was educated at Leeds University, UK, receiving a BSc. Honors in Chemistry & Colour Chemistry Combined in 1979. Afterwards he studied Conservation of Easel Paintings for three years at the Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London and was awarded the Institute’s post-graduate diploma in 1984. After an internship at the Tate Gallery London, he worked as a paintings conservator in the public sector in Australia, returning to Britain in 1989 to take up a teaching and research position at the Hamilton Kerr Institute, University of Cambridge. He was Lecturer in the Dept. of Conservation & Technology at the Courtauld Institute of Art from 1991 to 2000, during which time he spent 16 months on secondment to the MOLART project managed by the FOM Institute for Atomic & Molecular Physics, Amsterdam. After short periods as Research Fellow at the Royal College of Art, London, and as Associate Professor in Conservation at the University of Oslo, Norway, from 2002 and 2006 he was Senior Lecturer with the Masters programe in Conservation of Fine Art at Northumbria University, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK. In 2005-6 he took leave from Northumbria to spend nine months as a visiting research scholar at GCI.
Personal research interests include: the structural conservation of paintings on canvas; the mechanical properties of artists’ paints and conservation materials; the cleaning of paintings using aqueous formulations and organic solvents; the history of organic solvents; painting techniques and history of artists’ materials from the medieval period to the present day. He has published numerous research papers and articles on the science and practice of paintings conservation. He has been author or co-author of several books and exhibition catalogs, and has edited several series of conference proceedings. In 2017-18 he has been co-curator of the exhibition Frederick Hammersley: To Paint Without Thinking, shown at the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens., San Marino, CA, and the New Mexico Museum of Art, Santa Fe.
He is a Fellow of the International Institute for Conservation (IIC), and a Fellow of the American Institute for Conservation. In the past he has been Vice Chair of the United Kingdom for Conservation (UKIC) and Coordinator of the ICOM-CC Working Group: Conservation & Restoration of Paintings I (1996-2002). He was an editor of Studies in Conservation for IIC from 2007 to 2010, and Editor-in-Chief of that journal from Jan. 2009 to Aug. 2010.