CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Reviewing pictures from the past

Lieneke Nijkamp and Bert Watteeuw

Photo archives often contain visual material of considerable age. The Ludwig Burchard archive on 16th and 17th-century Dutch and Flemish art compiled in the first half of the 20th century is a perfect example of this. Besides handwritten notes, it comprises numerous reproductions done in a variety of photographic processes, as well as glass negatives and even prints. Unfortunately, due to conservation issues much of the older visual material has remained unknown to the public. For instance, glass negatives cannot be integrated in regular object files and are therefore usually neglected. Nevertheless, these early reproductions contain valuable information about provenance, about the appearance of painting prior to restoration, and can even afford unique visual evidence of a now lost painting.

Better insight into the conservation of such fragile visual material would not only prevent further deterioration but also safeguard potential crucial information. Supports and conveyors of information, such as glass negatives, can be considered historical objects in their own right and deserve better conservation.

Today we present a scarcely known part of our photographic resources to bring to light their very existence as well as their value for art historical research.

Points of discussion are:
– Would digitizing provide the solution to the problem of conserving the material while also disclosing it to the public?
– As a center for documentation, the Rubenianum would like to discuss the needs of museum curators: what are their demands concerning photo archives?
– How do museums deal with their own image libraries?

About Lieneke Nijkamp and Bert Watteeuw

Lieneke Nijkamp was recently appointed a research assistant at the Rubenianum in Antwerp and works in the Documentation Library. She previously worked at the Netherlands Institute for Art History (RKD) in The Hague.

Bert Watteeuw was recently appointed a research assistant at the Rubenianum in Antwerp and works in the Documentation Library. He previously worked at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven on a PhD fellowship of the research foundation Flanders.

Lieneke Nijkamp and Bert Watteeuw have been associate members of CODART since 2011.