Charlotte Hoffmann

Colour in foliage depiction in Dutch paintings of the Golden Age

Detail of a painting by Sebastian Vrancx, 1615/1620, Wallraf-Richartz-Museum & Fondation Corboud. ©Charlotte Hoffmann

Foliage depicted in 17th century paintings show differentiated colouration and a rich variety of pictorial expression. Especially Dutch landscape paintings of the Golden Age exhibit various nuances of green and brown colours in the foliage, whereby the optical appearance seems to be partly influenced by age-induced colour changes.

In this doctoral research project, the choice of material, technique of application and intended appearance of foliage in particular will be examined, taking into account contemporary colour theory, as well as work processes. Materials and techniques used will be analysed through art technological studies of a representative selection of paintings. The characteristics of individual artists and artistic traditions will be explored and compared, and research into contemporary art theoretical and art technological writings will complement this work. Statements on the design of landscapes in terms of colouring, atmosphere and perspective, as well as the theoretical concepts of colour theory and imitation of nature will be related to results obtained from examining paintings. A further aspect is the investigation of age-induced colour changes in the selected landscape paintings. In the 17th century, green colours were often produced by mixing different pigments, which are sometimes instable and can lead to various colour changes. The systematic analytical examination of the paint layers should make it possible to draw conclusions about the mechanisms of these colour changes.

The doctoral research project addresses these questions in an interdisciplinary manner, connecting art history and natural science, as well as art technology and conservation science. The project furthermore aims to improve the interpretation of the landscape paintings and especially their colour effects by incorporating the analytical results in the process. Finally, the development of adequate conservation strategies and suitable mediation concepts will be considered.

Personal Data

Charlotte Hoffmann studied the conservation of paintings, sculptures and modern art at the Cologne Institute of Conservation Sciences (CICS), at the Cologne University of Applied Sciences. During and after her studies, she worked in museums and in various projects as a freelancer. In her master’s studies, she used analytical methods to investigate the mechanisms of age-induced browning of green paint layers in landscape paintings in the collection of the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum & Fondation Corboud in addition to the ageing of verdigris in a 16th century painting and paint reconstructions by the Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed. This research kindled her interest in studying the materials and techniques as well as the artist’s intent and the colour changes in green paint layers in 17th century paintings. She has been a doctoral researcher in the Graduate Research Programme ‘Changing Frames’ since September 2020. Her research interests include the preservation and conservation of art and cultural heritage in interdisciplinary cooperation, art technological research, as well as public relations work for art technology and conservation.

Supervisory Team                              

Primary Supervisor Prof. Dr. Christoph Krekel, ABK Stuttgart
Secondary Supervisor Prof. Dr. Karin Leonhard


Dipl.-Rest. Iris Schaefer, Wallraf-Richartz-Museum & Fondation Corboud 

  Prof. Dr. Ester S. B. Ferreira, TH Köln
Project Partners Wallraf-Richartz-Museum & Fondation Corboud, Köln