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Over the past two decades, conservators and curators have often noted colour changes in Van Gogh paintings. The light-sensitive pigments responsible for these colour changes have been identified and their degradation mechanisms investigated. Yet, our actual knowledge of the time-scale of this problem is rather limited. To what extent has the observed fading and discoloration in Van Gogh’s paintings now stabilized? Or if still ongoing, how fast does it occur? In other words, can we expect to see colour changes taking place in Van Gogh’s paintings over the next ten years or so?

The present 4-year PhD project, sponsored by the AXA Research Fund, will implement an imaging micro-fading tester (iMFT) in order to studying the fading properties of paint and writing materials used by Van Gogh. In collaboration with  the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands (RCE) and the Rijksmuseum, the first part of the project will deal with improving the iMFT device to increase its accuracy and reliability. In a second part supported by the Van Gogh Museum, the improved micro-fading device will be used on  paint samples, ranging from model paint-outs to real Van Gogh paintings. The outcomes of the research will contribute to developing an improved model for light exposure risk assessment of Van Gogh’s paintings and will ultimately benefit their long term preservation.

Interview with Gauthier Patin about this project on the AXA website


Prof. dr. Ella Hendriks, University of Amsterdam
Prof. dr. Robert G. Erdmann, University of Amsterdam
Prof. dr. Klaas Jan van den Berg, University of Amsterdam

Project Partners

Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands (RCE)
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam