Behind the scenes: Conservation of the painting Multiplier les sens by Englebert van Anderlecht and Jean Dypréau

RS3875 HD van anderlecht dypreau lpr

A museum is more than just exhibitions. Welcome for a sneak peek behind the scenes.

The preparations for the new exhibition From the Collection: Together – Collaborative Art Practices are in full swing. One of the tasks of our conservators is to check the condition of each artwork before they go on display. These preparation phases can be a good possibility to take the time to thoroughly treat works, such as the painting Multiplier les sens.

This artwork was created in 1959 by the painter Englebert van Anderlecht in cooperation with the poet Jean Dypréau, who wrote the words onto the canvas. Van Anderlecht’s painting technique is very interesting. It is exceptional, how he diluted his oil paints to achieve the water-colour-like effect and contrastingly put very thick impasto right next to it.

Over time, the painting’s surface accumulated a layer of dust. During the last weeks, a surface cleaning of the painting has been conducted. The dust altered the appearance of the colours of the work and can act as one of the factors that accelerate the ageing process of the work through chemical reactions with the painting’s materials.

The paint layer was treated using the rather unconventional cleaning agent agar-agar gel. One of the main points speaking for its application was the minimal mechanical stress impact it had on the painting’s surface. This factor was important, because the white paint layer is textured by embedded fibres sensitive to mechanical stress.

The agar-agar solution was brushed onto the surface as a warm and thick liquid. After a few moments of cooling down, a rigid jelly formed, which adapted itself to the structure of the surface, laying onto and thus cleaning every fiber. The agar-agar-gel could then be taken off in one piece. By doing so, the dirt on the surface of the paint layers was removed, as it was adhering to the gel.

Though not visible from the front, the last measure taken was just as important. The painting got a custom-made cushioned backing board. This measure was necessary due to the canvas’s strong swinging while handling the painting. This movement strains the paint layers, possibly causing them to crack and in the worst case causing paint layers to flake. By putting a support onto the canvas’ backside, the canvas cannot move as much. A backing board also serves as a protection and a buffer against climate changes in the work’s environment. This is especially important during times, in which the painting is out of its storage with strictly controlled climate conditions.

Have a look at this masterpiece yourself! From May 25, 2024 it is on display at our exhibition From the Collection: Together – Collaborative Art Practices. We are looking forward to seeing you there.

Englebert Van Anderlecht & Jean Dypréau, Multiplier les sens, 1959

23.May.24 Category: Collection
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