Project archive

Conservation of Jan Toorop’s The print lover (Dr. Aegidius Timmerman)

The conservation treatment of Jan Toorop’s painting The print lover from 1900 was recently completed in the painting conservation studio.

Before and after conservation (photos Rik Klein Gotink).

The painting probably underwent a wax/resin re-lining in the late 1980s / early 1990s, at which time it was also given a layer of varnish with a natural resin base. In the course of time the varnish has yellowed considerably. Furthermore, dirt was found under the varnish layer on the paint layer. This gave the painting a somewhat grimy appearance and detracted from the artist’s original intention.

Detail during varnish removal: on the left the varnish and dirt has been removed, on the right it is still in place

Small cleaning tests revealed that removing the layers of varnish and dirt made a larger than expected difference and were, thus, crucial in the decision to remove the varnish completely. Toorop’s pointillist painting technique is now shown to full advantage once again, because the fresh colours of the individually applied dots of paint stand out against the light background, both of which are no longer covered by a uniform greyish veil.

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Detail after conservation

Unfortunately this painting displays a specific phenomenon, whereby its original beauty can never be restored completely. In the dark yellow and brown brush strokes, there is some discolouration. This is particularly noticeable in the lampshade in the top left corner of the painting. The light yellow dots seem unaffected, but the darker yellow dots appear to contain a cadmium yellow, which has degraded in the course of time. In the reddish brown dots, it seems to involve a degraded cadmium yellow mixed with madder. Besides the dark discolouration of the dots, the degradation has also made them highly porous and thus very matt in appearance. This matt/gloss difference remains visible to the observant viewer, even after conservation. Unfortunately, the degradation of the cadmium yellow is irreversible and as conservators we can do little more than consolidate the porous dots of paint to prevent actual paint loss. 

Detail signature after conservation

Another remarkable aspect of this painting is that Toorop used the pointillist painting technique up to the blank edges of the depiction, except along the right edge. There – and around the signature – the depiction extends to the edge of the frame, but the colours are applied in flat brushstrokes and not the distinctive pointillist dots. Unfortunately, we have found no explanation for this.

Photos: Rik Klein Gotink

Project coordination: Margje Leeuwestein
Duration: Jun 3, 2012 - Aug 31, 2012