AkzoNobel collaborates with Rijksmuseum for Operation Night Watch

February 27, 2020 | 16:37
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The Powder Coatings business of AkzoNobel, the leading paints and coatings company, has collaborated with Rijksmuseum to restore The Night Watch to its original glory.
akzonobel collaborates with rijksmuseum for operation night watch
Experts from the Rijksmuseum and AkzoNobel got together at the company’s site in Sassenheim, the Netherlands, to discuss the exciting possibilities for the Operation Night Watch partnership

Inventive scientific research into colour, light, and paint is at the core of the next phase of AkzoNobel’s trailblazing Operation Night Watch partnership with Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

Rembrandt’s masterpiece is undergoing the biggest and most innovative conservation in history, with the two partners combining their knowledge and expertise to conserve and restore the painting in the best possible way. They have now identified three key areas to focus on as the collaboration starts to gather pace.

“We’re very excited to be working with Rijksmuseum on such a ground-breaking project,” said Klaas Kruithof, AkzoNobel’s chief technology officer. “By fusing the old with the new, we can think differently, act differently, and use our innovative know-how to go beyond expectations and help bring paintings conservation into a whole new realm of possibilities.”

Robert van Langh, Rijksmuseum’s head of conservation and science, added, “We knew from the start that partnering with AkzoNobel on Operation Night Watch made perfect sense. Now we’re beginning to get into the finer details of how we can progress from a scientific point of view. We have common interests, especially in terms of colour and the ageing of the paint, and we’re confident that the projects we’ll be working on will help bring the Night Watch to a new perspective and level of understanding.”

Recreating Rembrandt’s impastos

Understanding how Rembrandt created his famous impastos will involve gaining a better insight into the relationship between rheology and practical paint application behaviour (rheology is the study of the flow of matter, primarily in a liquid state, but also as soft solids). Three different pigmented impasto paints found in Rembrandt’s work will be selected and investigated from different perspectives.

Designing custom colour calibration

Colour calibration is the focus of the second project, which aims to overcome a common issue with professional photographs of The Night Watch and other 17th-century Dutch paintings. These images tend to show a consistent brightening of dark areas in the artworks, which misrepresents those paintings on photographs in museum catalogues and other publications. The intention is to design a tailor-made colour calibration card for photographing 17th-century Dutch paintings with the aim of bringing about a substantial improvement.

Improving the viewing experience

This project will tap into AkzoNobel’s expertise in colour and light reflectance. The paint on The Night Watch has aged and many details are difficult to make out. To help enhance the viewing experience, the plan is to analyse hyperspectral and spectroradiometer data and use physics-based simulations to propose changes in the local lighting that could be used to improve the visibility of the painting.

“This is an incredible opportunity for us to contribute our colour expertise to an historic project,” explains AkzoNobel’s senior colour scientist, Eric Kirchner. “The Night Watch is an iconic painting, not only in Dutch culture but in the whole history of art. Being involved says a lot about us being the reference in the industry.”

Launched in July 2019, Operation Night Watch is using a series of ground-breaking tools and techniques to carry out a major investigation and conservation of Rembrandt’s famous painting – which has been encased in a special glass chamber. A dedicated project team of researchers, conservators, and restorers from Rijksmuseum is working in close collaboration with museums and universities in the Netherlands and abroad, including AkzoNobel’s colour specialists.

By Ha Vy

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