15 questions with Gerard van Ewijk

Gerard is the key AkzoNobel contact for Operation Night Watch’s impasto project and, together with his colleague Ruud, brings formulating and rheology experience to a project that tries to unravel Rembrandt’s paint making secrets.

The experts behind Operation Night Watch are hard at work discovering everything they can about Rembrandt’s most famous painting and what applications there might be to our modern life. Meet Gerard van Ewijk, R&D Manager Wood Coatings at AkzoNobel.


1. Describe yourself in three words.

Inquisitive, good sense of humor, open-minded

2. What’s your favorite color and why?

Orange. It’s vibrant, warm and reminds me of spectacular sunsets and flowers. You won’t see me wearing orange clothes though.

3. When you’re not working, how do you like to spend your time?

I love to play squash, visit friends, go out for diner, watch TV documentaries or series and read technical articles.

4. Tell us one thing you’re excited for in 2021.

Like everybody else, I’m looking forward to life returning to normal.

5. What’s your most prized possession?

I don’t care so much about possessions. Even if an object is related to a good moment in the past, I can lose the object but still have the memory.

6. What are your hidden talents?

Being quite introverted, not many will expect my sense of humor at first sight.

7. How would you describe Operation Night Watch in one word?


8. What do you enjoy most about your job?

There are several aspects that I particularly like. One is that coatings technology involves so many scientific disciplines. After almost 20 years in the company, I still learn new things every day! The other part is working with enthusiastic colleagues in different parts of the world – their engagement is very stimulating.

9. The partnership between AkzoNobel and the Rijksmuseum combines two different perspectives on paint and color – why do you think the partnership really works?

The partners bring complementary expertise to projects of mutual interest – this is the key.

10. Which character, detail or aspect of The Night Watch interests you the most?

Tough choice! I will cheat and mention two aspects. The first one is how magnificent material textures are represented in paint, especially the clothing of Van Ruytenburch. For example, the steel gorget looks like real reflecting steel with some rust marks to add to the realism, and the embroidery on his jacket looks shiny and has depth. A second interesting aspect is the painting’s “life”, which includes many moves, an acid attack in 1990, and going into hiding during WWII.

11. In your opinion, what would Rembrandt think of Operation Night Watch?

He would be amazed, for sure. Amazed that after centuries his painting still has mysteries for us, but also amazed about the level of expertise in chemical analysis, imaging and paint formulation we have nowadays.

12. If you were given a chance to time travel, when would you go and why?

Various interesting options, but I would choose 2050 to see how technology has changed our lives (if humanity is still around ☺) because one thing is certain: it will be totally different than the smartest people predict today.

13. What is one thing you’d prefer to never do again?

Many things, but none of them so bad to be worthy of mention.

14. What motivates you the most?

Working with engaged colleagues (or, likewise, squash team players) can create an upward spiral of motivation. In addition, using my strengths to make a contribution is definitely a motivator.

15. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

My promotor at the university once said to me, after an unexpected success: “I could have given you ten reasons why this could not work.” Sometimes you have to be bold and just try something new, even if success looks unlikely. No guts, no glory.

How do you go about restoring one of the world’s most famous paintings?

We asked some of the experts involved in Operation Night Watch to explain what will happen now our historic partnership with the Rijksmuseum is underway.

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