Bewer, Francesca G. A Laboratory for Art: Harvard's Fogg Museum and the Emergence of Conservation in America, 1900–50. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard Art Museum, 2010, p. 126.

Project (2015)

The Study of Technique in the Arts

This project wrote a history of the practice of the study of "technique" in the visual and decorative arts between 1500 and 1950. The three central research questions of this project were:

  1. What is technique in the visual and decorative arts?
  2. How is technique studied?
  3. Who is considered expert in technique?


We investigated the connection between shifting meanings of "technique" and developments in the humanities (e.g., art history) and the sciences. On the one hand, there are textual practices to study technique in the arts (centered on reading of textual sources such as recipes). On the other, there are object practices (from the human eye to scientific investigation and visualization, e.g., pigment analysis). The project scrutinized how the study of technique in the arts moved between textual and material object practices, and showed that approaches shifted in the way in which aspects of both practices were combined. By providing a history of the study of technique in the arts, this project sought to contribute towards the historical foundations of the epistemologies of conservation, restoration, and technical art history.