Research projects

Innovation in the precariat. Experiments in painting technique in 19th century Swiss painting

Led by
Karoline Beltinger
Silja Meyer, Isabelle Rippmann, Françoise Rohr, Nadim Scherrer, Stefan Schreier, Alessandra Vichi, Stéphanie Vuillemenot, Cornelia Wi, Stefan Zumbühl
Conservation and Restoration course, Bern Academy of the Arts at Bern University of Applied Sciences
“Kunstmaterial”, vol. 7


The correspondence between artists Robert Zünd (1827–1909) and Rudolf Koller (1828–1905), ranked today among the most significant 19th-century landscape painters in Switzerland, is the point of departure for this research project supported by art technology. Considering the nature of their paintings, their letters, especially in the 1860s and 1870s, reveal a surprising interest in issues of technique and indicate that, rather than traditional methods, it was the latest technical innovations that enabled them to paint like great Renaissance artists or Dutch landscape painters of the “golden” 17th century. An evaluation of relevant letters will be complemented by a technological analysis of selected paintings by each artist in which the techniques and products described were applied, and the findings will discussed in a broader context. Reconstructions of Zünd and Koller’s most interesting painting techniques are used to further verify the findings of the investigation. The results will be combined and published in the 7th volume of SIK-ISEA’s KUNSTmaterial series.

Rudolf Koller, «Der Pflüger», 1870, oil on canvas, 65.5 x 114.5 cm, Aargauer Kunsthaus

Open Access Policy

The KUNSTmaterial series is published in hybrid form and has been published online in open access as well as in printed form since 2022. The online version is available free of charge from the outset under the CC-BY-NC-ND licence (Gold Open Access), older editions of the series have been retro-digitised: KUNSTmaterial | / E-Periodica - KUNSTmaterial

The project is supported by:

  • Boner Stiftung für Kunst und Kultur, Chur
  • Christoph Blocher, Herrliberg
  • Georg und Bertha Schwyzer-Winiker Stiftung, Zurich
  • Stiftung Familie Fehlmann, Winterthur
  • Swiss Re, Zurich
  • a foundation that wishes to remain anonymous