Although Segers is described as an “artist’s artist” (Rembrandt owned eight of his paintings), he is little known today. His work is distinctly different to that of most artists from the Dutch Golden Age, featuring mountainous landscapes developed purely from imagination. To do justice to Segers, the Rijksmuseum decided to highlight his work’s uniqueness.
Designer Christian Borstlap, from creative studio Part of a Bigger Plan, wanted to create a unique atmosphere throughout the exhibition. He started with a dramatic video introduction, which was narrated by actor John Malkovich and projected onto a 9m x 6m staircase.
One of the major effects Bortslap wanted to achieve was to frame the paintings using only light. This would be difficult considering many of the pieces were no bigger than postcards. The paper artwork was also delicate, so light levels could not exceed 50 lux.
“Finding the right framing projector was challenging, as the throwing distance was almost seven meters”, explained Sjoerd van Beers of lighting designer Beersnielsen. “The framing had to be very precise, and we were afraid that the light would tremble.”
Beersnielsen compared a number of fixtures before selecting the StyliD PerfectBeam Framing Projector. It was then customized to fit the project’s challenging requirements: the light output was increased, straight knives were used instead of curved knives, and a lens with a moveable focus was used.
To maximize contrast around the artwork, the background was made as dark as possible, with dark-grey walls and carpets, and blankets over the skylights. And to create depth in the space, some walls were painted a lighter grey and illuminated with grazing lights. Text panels were subtly backlit and low ambient light was added to help visitors walk around safely.
The challenging project took Beersnielsen 60 hours to light the space instead of the usual 30, but it was worth it. Borstlap said that there were many five-star reviews that mentioned the design, and “many people said it was the best-designed exhibition in the museum so far.” Guests also voted with their feet, making numerous repeat visits.