Read the full story in Wired.
Under museum lights, the vibrant yellows in Vincent van Gogh’s iconic sunflower paintings have muddied over time. The yellow pigment van Gogh used—lead chromate, more popularly known as chrome yellow—darkens so noticeably with light exposure that artists eventually switched to different yellow pigments entirely.
But it’s not just Van Gogh’s yellows that suffer: Light will make most paints change color. So when a masterpiece is on display, curators, lighting designers, and engineers work together in order to keep the lights low and the painting pretty at the same time. Recently, to reduce energy costs, art museums have been shifting to using energy-efficient LEDs. But the switch isn’t just about cost—it can make preserving paintings easier, too.