Research profile  

Henrike Scholten
PhD candidate at Utrecht University 
Department of History and Art History 

I’m a historian of early modern Netherlandish art with a focus on drawing and painting technique. 
In 2020 I graduated cum laude from University of Groningen’s research master in Arts & Cultural Studies (Art History track). I am currently working as a PhD Candidate at Utrecht University within the ERC-funded project DURARE (Dynamics of the Durable: A History of Making Things Last in the Visual and Decorative Arts).

My dissertation within DURARE examines material and cultural aspects to artistic durability in the long seventeenth century, based on a corpus of art-technical written sources. In this project I use a blended method of art historical and hands-on historical reconstruction research.

My research interests include drawing, anatomy and corporeality in art, the teaching and learning of technique, as well as the influence of social aspects like class, gender and age on artistic practices. My research previously centered on the drawing albums from 1696 of Hendrick van Beaumont (1687-1707), a previously unknown draughtsman (publication TBA). 

Present research  

Illustration: Gesina ter Borch. De Overwinning van de Schilderkunst over de Dood. Watercolor on paper, 1660. Copyright: Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

Life is short, art endures? Practicing painting and permanence in the long seventeenth century.  

In an allegorical watercolor from 1660 Gesina ter Borch (1631-1690) depicted herself as the personification of Painting. Time and Death lie defeated below her feet. But on this watercolor sheet, the figure of Painting is depicted as working on an easel painting, presumably in oils. Were some artistic techniques thought to be more permanent than others? And how did the working practices of seventeenth-century painters relate to contemporary ideas about artworks and durability?  

This dissertation investigates material, practical and theoretical aspects of durability in seventeenth century Dutch art. Visual artworks ‘immortalized’ nature, and the ability of paintings to withstand time was proverbial. But less is known about the ways the material durability of artworks was approached in practice. By analyzing a corpus of art-technological writings, instruction books and theoretical treatises, I investigate how notions of quality and stability were codified in writing. By recreating some of these techniques in practice through historical reconstructions, I examine how feasible such techniques might have been in practice. Treating Dutch painting as a spectrum of practices ranging from ‘common’ glue-size paintings to watercolors and oil paintings, the present research aims to uncover how notions of quality and durability played out in the practical considerations of makers inside and outside the workshop.

PhD Project at Utrecht University. Part of ERC-funded project DURARE (Dynamics of the Durable: A History of Making Things Last in the Visual and Decorative Arts). Promotors: Marjolijn Bol, Thijs Weststeijn.
2020 - 2025

© 2022
Henrike Scholten