Project

Cleaning Modern Oil Paints

June 2015 – May 2018

Cleaning Modern Oil Paints (CMOP) is a collaborative European research project exploring some of the most interesting and pertinent challenges associated with the conservation of 20th and 21st century oil paintings.

Twentieth- and twenty-first-century oil paintings present a range of conservation challenges distinct from those found in paintings from previous centuries. Phenomena that have been recently 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. Many of these paintings are also unvarnished rendering their surfaces particularly vulnerable.

The current lack of understanding about the nature of change in modern manufactured oil paints means that the established empirical approach 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 applied to clean modern oil paintings. So 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 phenomena by exploring several aspects of paint formulations (oil fraction, pigment-medium interactions, additives) and case study works of art. This will in turn facilitate the modification and 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. They will also be introduced through continuous professional development workshops for practising conservators, thereby offering practical solutions to conservators facing these difficult challenges.

Cleaning Modern Oil Paints logo

Cleaning Modern Oil Paints partners

University of Amsterdam / Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands

  • Prof. dr. Klaas Jan van den Berg, Senior Conservation Scientist (project leader)
  • Lise Steyn, CMOP PhD Student
  • Dr. Maartje Stols, Assistant Professor of Paintings Conservation 
  • Prof. dr. Ella Hendriks, Professor of Paintings Conservation 

Tate

  • Dr Bronwyn Ormsby, Principal Conservation Scientist 
  • Professor Pip Laurenson, Head of Collection Care Research
  • Judith Lee, Researcher, Conservation Science – CMOP
  • Luigi Galimberti, Collection Care Research Manager

Courtauld Institute of Art

  • Professor Aviva Burnstock, Head of the Department of Conservation & Technology

University of Pisa

  • Prof. Ilaria Bonaduce, Associate Professor at the Department of Chemistry and Industrial Chemistry
  • Prof. Ilaria Degano, Associate Professor at the Department of Chemistry and Industrial Chemistry
  • Prof. Francesca Modugno, Associate Professor at the Department of Chemistry and Industrial Chemistry
  • Dr Anna Lluveras Tenorio, Assistant Professor at the Department of Chemistry and Industrial Chemistry
  • Dr Celia Duce, Assistant Professor at the Department of Chemistry and Industrial Chemistry
  • Jacopo La Nasa, Post-doc Fellow at the Department of Chemistry and Industrial Chemistry
  • Sibilla Orsini, PhD student at the Department of Chemistry and Industrial Chemistry
  • Silvia Pizzimenti, Master’s student at the Department of Chemistry and Industrial Chemistry
  • Fabiana di Gianvincenzo, Master’s student at the Department of Chemistry and Industrial Chemistry

Associate partners

The following institutes are acting in support of the CMOP project in the capacity of associate partner:

This project has received support by Heritage Plus, a Joint Programming Initiative of the European Commission.

Project Information

Project type
Conservation project
Research project
Lead departments
Tate Research
Tate Conservation

Project Publications

A list of all the publications associated with the Cleaning Modern Oil Paints (CMOP) project

A Discussion on Practice and Problems: Public event at Tate Britain, 11 November 2016

A Discussion on Practice and Problems | Update on Cleaning Modern Oil Paints collaborative European research project

The Trouble with Modern Oils: Recent CMOP progress at Tate

The Trouble with Modern Oils | Update on Cleaning Modern Oil Paints collaborative European research project

Cleaning and Reconstruction Workshops: Ateliergebouw, Amsterdam, 10–14 April 2017

Cleaning and Reconstruction Workshops | Update on Cleaning Modern Oil Paints collaborative European research project

Analytical Challenges: Recent CMOP progress at the University of Pisa

Scientists understand that aged oil paints are complex chemical systems and they can study the various components of this system ...

Conference on Modern Oil Paints: Amsterdam, 23-25 May 2018

On the occasion of the conclusion of the research project ‘Cleaning Modern Oil Paints’ (2015-2018), the Rijksmuseum, in collaboration with ...

Physical Properties of Modern Artists’ Oil Paints: Recent CMOP progress at the Getty Conservation Institute and CATS

Studies into the physical, mechanical properties of modern artists’ oil paints are being carried out as a collaboration between Centre ...

At the European Researchers’ Night: Pisa, Italy, 29 September 2017

CMOP was presented at the European Researchers’ Night, an event that takes place every year across Europe on the last ...

The Great American Adventure: Collaborative Research on Robert Ryman

Lise Steyn, University of Amsterdam, on researching Robert Ryman | Update on Cleaning Modern Oil Paints collaborative European research project

Conference on Modern Oil Paints: Final Report

The Conference on Modern Oil Paints took place between 23-25 March 2018 at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, focussing on the complex ...

Final Project Results: A Summary

The knowledge generated by CMOP is significant to heritage research and practice and will have an international impact

See also

Collection Care Research

Collection care research at Tate addresses the need for new knowledge to explore the many challenges related to the conservation ...