The Courtauld Institute of Art is delighted to announce that AkzoNobel, the world’s largest paint and coatings company, will fund three postgraduate students undertaking either a PhD or MA in Conservation of Wall Painting from October 2012.  This new initiative builds on AkzoNobel’s current commitment to fund Sanjay Dhar, who is studying part-time for his PhD from 2009-2017.  All three additional AkzoNobel Scholarships are for students from India, China and Brazil. 


The Courtauld’s renowned Conservation of Wall Painting Department, under the direction of Professor David Park and Sharon Cather, is the only specialist postgraduate qualification in Wall Painting Conservation in the entire English-speaking world, and takes up to eight MA students every three years.  It offers two programmes and AkzoNobel Scholarships may be awarded to students undertaking either a PhD in Conservation of Wall Painting (six years if part-time, three years if full-time) or an MA in Conservation of Wall Painting (three years full-time). 


Professor Deborah Swallow, Märit Rausing Director of The Courtauld, said: “AkzoNobel’s funding of four postgraduate degree scholars from India, Brazil and China will further enhance the academic reach of wall painting conservation and serve as a launch pad for these scholars who, armed with critical conservation skills, will return to make a major contribution to the preservation of their countries’ historical sites.  This scholarship support also further strengthens The Courtauld’s recent expansion into the field of Asian art.”


”AkzoNobel has always been exceptionally passionate about conserving buildings with cultural significance”, added John McLaren, Corporate Director Communications at AkzoNobel.  “Our products have been used to support the restoration of many historical landmarks such as La Scala opera house in Milan, Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum, and the historical city of Malacca in Malaysia – a UNESCO World Heritage site.  That’s why we are pleased to increase our support of The Courtauld, a world-famous institution for the conservation of wall paintings.  This gives them the opportunity to expand their work in India, Brazil and China, also all key countries to the future growth of AkzoNobel.”


Sanjay Dhar’s PhD topic is Assessing and Managing Risk: Himalayan Wall Paintings.  Wall painting sites in the Himalayas pose significant conservation challenges common to conservation projects across the world, but they also present some unique issues resulting from their long-term isolation as well as their socio-economic environment.  Conservation projects undertaken in the region over the last decade have been handicapped due to several factors, including lack of adequate risk assessment and proper studies of materials and techniques.  Assessment, including physical history, current condition, and deterioration risks, is certainly one of the most basic and important aspects of conservation.  However, funding agencies do not prioritise these initial studies on which management strategies must be based.  As a result, the conservation process is truncated and insufficient, with little enhancement of the knowledge base or improvement of the process of conservation.  It is in this context that Sanjay Dhar’s current research is being undertaken, with the aim of evaluating methodologies for assembling physical histories, and approaches to critical recording and condition assessment, leading to improvements in strategies for managing risk.

Funding of the second student, Sreekumar Menon, also from India, will begin in October 2012.  Sreekumar has been a member of The Courtauld’s conservation team at Nagaur, India, since 2007, and was a contributor to the recent Buddhist Art Forum held at The Courtauld in April 2012.  He has worked on major projects including, most recently, the Hanle Monastery, Hanle, Ladakh, where he undertook condition assessment of 17th century wall paintings for the Namgyal Institute for Research on Ladakhi Art and Culture (NIRLAC). 


His research topic is Early Period Buddhist Wall Paintings of Ladakh from the 11th to 13th Century: Materials, Techniques & Conservation Implications.  Ladakh, in the Western Himalayas in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, has been and remains a significant centre of Tibetan Buddhism.  This region is marked by numerous Buddhist monasteries, temples and chortens, many of which are adorned with wall paintings.  The development of Tibetan Buddhism in the region is ascribed from the 10th to the 12th century AD following the ‘second propagation’ of Buddhism in Tibet.  Under the patronage of local kings, Lotsawa Rinchen Zangpo (958-1056) laid the foundation of several temples across Ladakh.  He is also credited for bringing artists from neighbouring Kashmir, thus infusing a new artistic tradition inspired by contemporaneous Kashmiri art, a characteristic of the ‘early period’ temples of the 11th to 13th century AD.


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