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AkzoNobel using new technology to recreate old masterpiece


As part of the company’s partnership with the Van Gogh Museum, AkzoNobel’s color experts are carrying out a digital restoration of the famous work of art which will reveal what it would have looked like when Van Gogh first painted it.

Adopting technology and techniques regularly used by the company’s Vehicle Refinishes business, the AkzoNobel researchers are carrying out the color measurements using digital data supplied by the National Gallery in Washington.

“As a company with a proud history, we’re delighted to be working with the Van Gogh Museum on a project which embraces both color and heritage,” said AkzoNobel CFO Maëlys Castella, who is attending today’s event.

“Color and heritage are two of the key pillars of our global Human Cities initiative. So combining them in this way to offer our knowledge is hugely rewarding and we’re proud to be making a contribution to preserving an important part of our heritage by balancing the old with the new.”

By analyzing digital images of the painting, the AkzoNobel team was able to study the data and determine the pigment composition of Van Gogh’s original artwork. When the museum’s head of conservation, Ella Hendriks, then began removing the yellowed varnish layer (which was applied after Van Gogh’s death) it became clear that the color predictions were accurate.

“Now that the varnish has been removed we can see that we are on the right path to digitally restoring the original colors,” explained AkzoNobel scientist, Eric Kirchner. “In the near future, and in close collaboration with experts from the Van Gogh Museum and the Cultural Heritage Agency, we will work on the full digital color restoration of the painting.”

Although the varnish layer has been removed, several of the pigments used by Van Gogh have faded or darkened over time. And because modern conservation ethics won’t allow new color to be added, a digital restoration is the only way to faithfully recreate the original painting.

Staged at the Van Gogh Museum, today’s viewing also includes a panel discussion featuring Maëlys, Ella, Kirchner and museum director Axel Rüger.

AkzoNobel has been a partner of the Van Gogh Museum’s restoration studio since 2013. Last year, a new color palette known as the AkzoNobel Van Gogh Collection was launched, featuring colors inspired by ten of the great master’s works.

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