FRIABLE Preservation and Valorisation of Friable Media on Paper.

2022 > 2026

Promotor(s) : Dr. Inga Rossi-Schrimpf (RMFAB), Marjolijn Depulpaep (KIK-IRPA), Prof. Estelle Van Geyts (ENSAV, La Cambre), Prof. Dr. Lieve Watteeuw (KU Leuven), Leila Sauvage (Rijksmuseum)

Researcher(s) : Lise Vandewal (RMFAB), Juliette François (KIK-IRPA), Marie-Noëlle Grison (RMFAB/KU Leuven), Ana Oñate Muñoz (ENSAV La Cambre)

The FRIABLE project investigates the vulnerability of modern works on paper with powdery materials such as pastel, charcoal and chalk. Its aim is to develop a protocol for the conservation and management of these types of collections and to train professionals in preventive conservation of these works.

The research project will focus on the collection of works on paper in brittle material, dating from the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. This period brought a revival in the use of pastels and other powdery materials, often in combination with other media. The renewed interest in materials such as pastel, chalk and charcoal was also eagerly used in the Belgian artistic landscape. Both for preparatory studies and for large autonomous works, artists such as Fernand Khnopff, James Ensor, Alix d’Anethan, William Degouve de Nuncques, Jules Schmalzigaug, Léon Spilliaert, Félicien Rops and Constantin Meunier turned to these materials. The ever-growing interest in this artistic period today poses a challenge for the conservation, transport and exhibition of this type of work.

The aim of this BRAIN-be 2.0 project, funded by BELSPO, is twofold. First, it wants to investigate the fragility of modern works with powdery materials on paper. Secondly, it aims to develop a protocol to guarantee the conservation of these fragile works and thus train professionals for better conservation. A first step in the research is to characterise and catalogue the wide range of works on paper in the collection of the RMFAB. This includes reconstructing the past life of each of the works, determining their condition and developing a technical vocabulary. This phase will form the basis for a comprehensive risk and value analysis. A selection of works, the research corpus, will be examined in depth using microphotography, surface topography, multispectral and narrow-band imaging, micro- and macro-XRF and FORS. Linking all previous phases will lead to the elaboration of a concrete methodology for handling friable media in different collections. Results will be shared in the form of articles, workshops and practical guidelines.

FRIABLE is an interdisciplinary research project that brings together knowledge from (technical) art history, conservation, engineering and collection management. To this end, the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium (RMFAB) are joining forces with the University of Leuven (KUL), the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage (KIK-IRPA), the École Nationale Supérieur des Arts Visuels (ENSAV, La Cambre) and the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam.

The FRIABLE project is a BRAIN project, supported by BELSPO.

As part of this research, the RMFAB and its partners are organizing a (voluntary) workshop for master students of restoration and/or (technical) art history from 14.09 to 16.09.2022. More information about the call for applications can be found here.

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