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.

Cleaning Modern Oil Paints logo

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 partners

Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands

  • Dr Klaas Jan van den Berg, Senior Conservation Scientist

Tate

  • Dr Bronwyn Ormsby, Senior Conservation Scientist
  • Dr Pip Laurenson, Head of Collection Care Research
  • Judith Lee, PhD candidate, Conservation Science
  • 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:

  • Getty Conservation Institute, United States of America
  • Gemeente Museum Den Haag, Netherlands
  • Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • Opificio delle Pietre Dure, Italy
  • Centre for Art Technological Studies and Conservation, Denmark

This project has received funding as a part of the Heritage plus programme in support of the Joint-Programme Initiative on Cultural Heritage.

Project Information