That was an important milestone in the project. Nobody had done exactly this before. We studied other researchers who calculated the original colors of other Van Gogh paintings. But technology has already moved so fast that for this painting we were able to measure more colors more precisely, and make the color calculations faster than ever before. Previous projects made as many as 50 detailed color calculations – now, it was possible for us to do 1.7 million.
And that’s not all we did for the first time. We investigated all thirteen mixing colors Van Gogh used for this painting and either used the same process to produce the paint or used pigments that best imitate the actual paints he used. We were the first to do this for all the pigments in a painting – and it made this restoration as true to the original as possible.
But still, recreating some colors was a challenge. For example, our initial calculations indicated the sky had been very green, which didn’t seem quite right. Our program had assumed a green pigment in the sky to be the same as in the landscape, as this had been concluded from microscope studies on the painting. But since our initial calculations gave these unexpected results, conservation specialist Muriel Geldof did some more microscopic studies on the sky part of the painting, and she then discovered an entirely different type of green pigment was present there which had been overlooked before. Another example of what’s possible with a multi-disciplinary team.
I’ve learned that Van Gogh was always testing new ideas and color concepts. And as part of the Color Technology Group, I realized I do those same things today. For example, when new color sensors appear in smartphones, we think of ways to utilize them. And when new types of car paints appear on the market, we investigate how people perceive those paints. That’s similar to how Van Gogh always tried to find out how his colors looked like in his paintings, instead of just trying to apply the “true color”. Diverse fields of expertise can intersect in such interesting and world-altering ways.