The colour red is slowly disappearing from the paintings of Van Gogh
Hilversum, December 6 2014 - The blue irises of Van Gogh's 'Field with ireses near Arles' were once purple, as is shown by a scientific study. The fact is that the colour red is slowly disappearing from Van Gogh's paintings. These discolorations are due to the deterioration of the red dye in the paint. ICT has made it possible to get a clear picture of this aging process.
This is the conclusion of scientists who studied Van Gogh’s work. They talk about it in NTR’s science programme De Kennis van Nu, Sunday, December 7 (7:45 pm on NPO 2). The item will be put online later today. It is a joint research project of scientists of Universiteit Tilburg, the Van Gogh Museum and the Netherlands' department of Cultural Heritage.
Senior restorer Ella Hendriks of the Van Gogh Museum studied the painting Field with Irises near Arles which Van Gogh completed in 1888. During her scientifig study she discovered that the blue irises once must have been purple and that the red colour in the painting is getting lighter, due to a negative effect of light on the red dyes.
Computer modelling has made it possible to map the deterioration of the colours. Ella Hendriks is afraid that unless measures are taken, the dye will disappear within decades. Possibly lighting standards will have to be adjusted internationally to protect paintings against discoloration.
During restoration, the original palet of colours will not be restored. But the researchers want to make digital reconstructions of the works to be able to see them in their original shape. These simulations can sereve as guide lines for setting new standards in lighting. Involving ICT experts in conservation and restoration of art is a new development.
De Kennis van Nu (Today’s Knowledge) is the science programme of NTR. Presented by André Kuipers, Diederik Jekel, Liesbeth Staats and Bart Maijer. De Kennis van Nu is also broadcast on NPO Radio 1 (Sundays at 8 pm, with Coen Verbraak), NPO Radio 5 (work days at 9 pm) and dekennisvannu.nl for scientific news facts.