Project: Cleaning Modern Oil Plants

Acronym CMOP
Duration 01/06/2015 - 31/05/2018
Project Topic Within the primary context of safeguarding tangible heritage for current and future generations, 20thand 21st-century oil paintings (like works by artists as Kandisky, Malevich, Bacon, Kerkeby…) are presenting a range of challenging problems that are distinctly different from those noted in paintings from previous centuries. Besides, the number of works recognised as being at risk with respect to surface cleaning treatment continues to increase as many 20th-century paintings require cleaning for the first time. Problems are often but not exclusively associated with unvarnished, unprotected surfaces. Phenomena increasingly observed include the formation of vulnerable surface ‘skins’ of medium on paint surfaces, efflorescence, unpredictable water and solvent sensitivity, and alarming incidences of dripping paints, several years after the paintings have been completed. The current lack of understanding of the nature of change in modern manufactured artists’ oil paints means that established empirical approaches to conservation treatments such as surface cleaning are not applicable to a great number of works (such as commonly used systems that rely upon water as major component) and as a consequence the presentation of modern oil paintings may be compromised. This project aims therefore at exploring several aspects of paint formulations (oil [lipid] fraction, pigment-medium interactions, additives) and case study works of art. Those explorations aims at guiding the development of surface cleaning systems that are more appropriate for use on the increasing numbers of unvarnished oil paintings in international and private collections. New cleaning systems are trialed on works of art in several internationally significant public collections.
Project Results
(after finalisation)
An inventory of degradation phenomena of modern oil paintings, significantly contributing to an online tool helping to inform degradation phenomena noted on painting surfaces. The database includes visual examples of various phenomena as well as explanations for their likely causes, forming together a substantial resource for further research. • A model for the interpretation of the development of water sensitivity in modern oil paintings. New analytical procedures were developed to investigate these materials with high accuracy and sensitivity, and new analytical methodologies were employed to investigate the physical properties and behaviours of model paints. • Valuable guidance, low risk options for conservation treatment, enhanced tools and methodologies for conservators and collections care professionals, that are more appropriate for use on these paints. Three case study works of art by well-known international artists, and analytical investigations and cleaning tests performed on more than 50 other paintings, serving as useful examples of this newly developed approach, for conservators to take forward into studio practice. • The creation of continuous professional development, student training courses and workshops for conservators. The project collaborated with postgraduate and undergraduate students and staff, and research outcomes were shared in university courses, incorporated into workshops and meetings involving stakeholders from the paint manufacture, heritage science, and most notably, conservation industries/professions. In addition, a short educational documentary film aimed at the general public reached over 30.000 people on social media.
Website visit project website
Call JPI Cultural Heritage and Global Change

Project partner

Number Name Role Country
1 University of Amsterdam Coordinator Netherlands
2 Cultural Heritage Agency of The Netherlands Partner Netherlands
3 Tate Gallery Partner United Kingdom
4 Courtauld Institute of Art Partner United Kingdom
5 University of Pisa Partner Italy