CMOP - Cleaning Modern Oil Paintings


Within the primary context of safeguarding tangible heritage for current and future generations, 20th- and 21st-century oil paintings are presenting a range of challenging problems that are distinctly different from those noted in paintings from previous centuries. 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. In particular, commonly used systems that rely upon water as a major component cannot be safely applied to clean modern oil paintings. Thus far, few alternative methods of treatment have proven effective and as a consequence the presentation of modern oil paintings may be compromised. This project aims to make a significant impact on our understanding of the reasons behind these alarming problems by exploring several aspects of paint formulations (oil [lipid] fraction, pigment-medium interactions, additives), and case study works of art.
Those explorations will guide 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 will be trialled on works of art in several internationally significant public collections. This information will be disseminated via
web platforms, seminars, conferences and a documentary for the general public. The cleaning systems will be introduced via existing continuous professional development courses and workshops/seminars aimed at practising conservators and conservation students, thereby offering practical solutions to current and future conservators facing these difficult


Chapter in book

  • K.J. van den Berg, S. Bayliss, S Eyb Green, F. van Gurp, B. Klein Ovink, A Burnstock(2016): Sources on Art Technology; Back to Basics. pp. 43 - 50 , London
  • B. Wright, A. Burnstock, A. Wallert, K.J. van den Berg(2016): Painting Techniques. History, Materials and Studio Practice pp. 250 - 257 , Amsterdam
  • K. Kinseher, R. Lugert, M. d’Ayala Valva, K.J. van den Berg(2017): Materiali d’artista: l’atelier del pittore nell’Otto e Novecento pp. 213 - 216 , Pisa
  • K.J. van den Berg, F. Casadio, A. Burnstock, M.R. Schilling(2018): Metal Soaps in Art – Conservation & Research pp. x - xx

Scientific article

  • S. Bayliss, H. van Keulen, K.J. van den Berg, S. de Groot, A. Burnstock, A. Sawicka(2016): An investigation into the separation and migration of oil in paintings by Erik Oldenhof Microchem. J. pp. 974 - 982
  • M. Chavannes, K.J. van den Berg, A. Volk, L. Wijnberg(2016): a partially water-sensitive oil painting by Karel Appel: Technical Investigation and a tailored approach to surface cleaning Zeitschrift für Kunsttechnologie und Konservierung pp. 150 - 166
  • J. Dik, B. van Driel, K.J. van den Berg, S. Morsch(2017): Investigating the Photocatalytic Degradation of Oil Paint using ATR-IR and AFM-IR ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces pp. 10169 - 10179
  • M. van Bommel, K.J. van den Berg, A. Ness Proano Gaibor, E. van Dam(2017): Analysis of triglyceride degradation products in drying oils and oil paints using LC-ESI-MS Int. J. Mass Spectrometry pp. 33 - 42
  • J. Gerretzen, J. Dik, B. van Driel, K.J. van den Berg(2018): The white of the 20th century - An explorative survey into Dutch modern art collections Heritage Science pp. x - x
  • B. Ormsby, F. Modugno, J. Lee, D. Banti, K.J. van den Berg, A. Burnstock, J. La Nasa, A. Lluveras Tenorio, I. Bonaduce(2018): A molecular study of modern oil paintings: investigating the role of dicarboxylic acids in the water sensitivity of modern oil paints RSC Adv. pp. 6001 - 6012
  • B. Ormsby, J. La Nasa, F. Modugno, I. Bonaduce, K.J. van den Berg, J. Lee(2018): Scientific investigation into the water sensitivity of twentieth century oil paints Microchem. J. pp. 282 - 295


Project number


Main applicant

Prof. dr. J. Wadum em.

Affiliated with

Universiteit van Amsterdam, Faculteit der Geesteswetenschappen, Kunst- en Cultuurwetenschappen

Team members

L. Steyn MA, L. Steyn MA


01/09/2015 to 31/05/2018