Public defence: Casting new light on Munch - improving conservation strategies

Master Thierry-Olivier Ford at the Department of Archaeology, Conservation and History will defend his dissertation Revisiting the surface, Edvard Munch and varnishes. A group case study and non-invasive approach to conservation decision-making for painting collections for the degree of philosophiae doctor (PhD).

Doctoral candidate Thierry-Olivier Ford, wall with text "det humanistiske fakultet"

Norway’s National Museum houses the first publicly owned collection of paintings by Edvard Munch (1863-1944). The 57 paintings are considered the museum’s ‘crown jewels’. Many of the iconic works are displayed collectively in a separate Munch Room. However, are the paintings we see here as Munch had originally intended them, and how should they be conserved?

In his thesis, Revisiting the surface, Edvard Munch and varnishes, conservator Thierry Ford focuses on Munch’s painted surfaces and the use of varnish. He traces the history of the museum’s debated conservation treatments. Munch preferred a matt surface, while later restoration varnishing has in some cases given them a glossier finish. 

Among Ford’s major discoveries are the revelation of original surface finishes in Munch’s early paintings, which raises important questions about later varnishing and future conservation. To limit physical sampling, non-invasive diagnostic techniques were used for the identification of the varnishes. 

The study provides the first complete conservation and varnish overview of the collection which gives a clearer understanding of how best to conserve the paintings and their varnishes. Results from the investigations feed into a self-designed conservation decision-making model which can assist art historical and conservation challenges in the Munch collection. This model can be easily adapted for similar single-artist collections. 

The defence is open to the public and will be held in English.


Trial lecture

Designated topic: “The problems of Post-Impressionist and Symbolist surfaces in museums: varnish, display, storage and travelling exhibitions”

Time and place: 14 October, 10:15 a.m., Gamle festsal

The trial lecture is open to the public and will be held in English.


Evaluation committee

Dr. Austin Nevin, The Courtauld Institute of Art (first opponent)

Professor Patricia Gray Berman, Wellesley College (second opponent)

Professor Noëlle Lynn Wenger Streeton, University of Oslo (committee administrator)

Chair of the defence

Head of Department Jon Vidar Sigurdsson


Professor Tine Frøysaker, University of Oslo

Professor Ella Hendriks, University of Amsterdam

Research Scientist Adriana Rizzo, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Dr. Elena Platania, University of Oslo

Published Sep. 27, 2022 8:55 AM - Last modified Oct. 21, 2022 12:27 PM