Access to technical analysis: visualizing the invisible

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Publication Type:

Conference Paper


Sheldon, Libby;


Conservation and Access: Contributions to the 2008 IIC Congress, London, p.0-0 (2008)


This paper discusses the problems and possibilities, for both the budding art historian and the public, of access to technical analysis and to technical art history. Looking for ways to further an understanding of the complexities of analytical procedures and interpretation, an educational experiment was set up at University College, London. Untrained art history students were involved in the first-hand analysis of a number of paintings. They were invited to choose and observe appropriate analytical procedures, interpret and evaluate the sometimes surprising findings produced by infrared examination, pigment identification and X-radiography, and relate these to the art historical questions raised at the outset. The students selected the most important results, which were then presented in a very visual and readable manner in a public exhibition, From Idea to Object: Painting Practices Revealed. Of lasting value to the participants, the experiment highlighted the need for first-hand experience of technical analysis in comprehending its value to art history.