The paint can slowly change colour, losing its vibrant yellow to become brown or olive green.
Scientists have discovered that the pigment featured in several famous artworks becomes unstable under LED lights. A sample of 14 works from the period between 1887 and 1890 was tested for the reaction, which affects a paint used during the Impressionist period called chrome yellow. It was used by artists in the 1800s such as Van Gogh, Paul Gaugin and Paul Cézanne.
Galleries and museums around the world have now been warned to stop using LEDs until more research has been done on the deterioration of paint.
Claus Habfast of the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in France, told the Independent newspaper in London: ‘LED lights appear to have many advantages but museums should carefully consider that paintings from the Van Gogh era could be affected by them.
‘Paintings that have moderate darkening will find this accelerates in the coming years.
‘Of course, it’s not advisable to put these paintings in the dark because they are part of the cultural heritage of humankind and the public wants to see them. But museums have to strike the right balance.’
European reseachers analysed the lead chromate in various canvasses using X-rays and found that certain lighter shades of yellow turned brown or green when placed under the green-blue rays emitted by some LED lights.