Netherlands Institute for Conservation, Art and Science

Titanium white

friend or foe?

“Titanium white, Friend or Foe?” is a research project running from 2014 to 2018 (PhD) in a collaborative set-up with three NICAS partners. The project is carried out at the Rijksmuseum, with supervision from Delft University of Technology and the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands (RCE) and analytically and financially supported by AkzoNobel.

The aim of this project is to understand and predict degradation damage caused by titanium white pigments in oil paints. Titanium white pigments came onto the market in the 20th century and these pigments can be either good for the painting (protecting it from UV light) or bad for the painting (severely catalysing degradation).

One main challenge in this project is that the expected problems have not manifested themselves in collections yet (or are not being noticed). However, we may be dealing with a ticking time bomb. Thus, for this project we used a preventive approach aiming to determine the extent of the problem, to understand the factors (paint formulation) influencing the problem and to elucidate the phenomenology of the problem (early warning signs). Additionally, easy-to-use methodologies to predict the problem (distinguish between good and bad pigments) were developed within the framework of this project.


Taking XRF measurements of Karel Appel’s Palet ‘65’(1965) at the AMC collection (Photo: B. van Driel).

Principal researcher

Birgit van Driel (Rijksmuseum)

Type of project


Participating researchers.

  • Joris Dik (supervisor)
  • Klaas Jan van den Berg (supervisor)

Participating institutions

  • Rijksmuseum
  • Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands
  • Delft University of Technology
  • AkzoNobel

Funded by AkzoNobel.

Logo AkzoNobel

Published by  NICAS

14 November 2017