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The prehistory of the Doerner Institut is closely associated with the names of Adolf Keim, Alexander Eibner and Walter Gräff. In 1877, Adolf Keim founded a chemical-technical workshop for water-glass and mural techniques in Augsburg, which was relocated to Munich in 1881. In 1886, ongoing financial difficulties resulted in Keim’s Research Institute for Painting Techniques (Versuchsanstalt für Maltechnik) being placed under the auspices of the German Society for the Promotion of Rational Painting Techniques (Deutsche Gesellschaft für rationelle Malverfahren), founded in 1880. But it was not until the takeover of the institute by Munich’s Technical University in 1902 that its continued existence as a Research Institute and Information Office for Painting Techniques (Versuchsanstalt und Auskunftsstelle für Maltechnik) was assured.

In1907, Alexander Eibner became director of the research institute, which was then housed at the corner of Luisenstraße and Gabelsbergerstraße. In these years, Eibner must have met the young art historian Walter Gräff (born in1876), who was research assistant at the Staatliche Gemäldesammlung in the Alte Pinakothek from 1908. The importance of Walter Gräff in the history of the Doerner Institut has hitherto been insufficiently recognized. Gräff was a talented amateur photographer who understood the significance of technical photography for the analysis of paintings no later than 1916. Like Eibner, Gräff was on the board of the German Society for the Promotion of Rational Painting Techniques .