For a long time, Ziem's „Dutch River Landscape with Windmills“ was not on display and in need of restoration. The reason was the strongly yellowed varnish that severely compromised the painting’s aesthetic appearance.
Varnish is a transparent coating that lends the painting lustre and “depth” and serves to protect the paint layer. In the Dutch Landscape, the varnish had yellowed so strongly that it changed the appearance of the colours. Particularly the sky had become an almost uniform greyish yellow. Neither the weather nor the atmosphere were recognizable in the condition the painting was in. An examination of the varnish showed that it had been added not by the artist but during an early restoration treatment.
Solvent tests revealed that it would be possible to remove the varnish without endangering the sensitive paint layer. With great care and the aid of cotton swabs moistened in solvent, it was possible to take off the varnish. As we see here in the left-hand section of the painting, the colour nuances intended by the artist have thus been brought out once again. Among other things, it was discovered that the thin paint layer executed rapidly by the artist in the wet-in-wet technique allows the unprimed reddish wooden panel to show through in many places.
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