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The Center for Scientific Studies in the Arts

Advancing the role of science in art

About the Center for Scientific Studies in the Arts

Housed within McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, the Center for Scientific Studies in the Arts is a collaborative endeavor that pursues objects-based and objects-inspired scientific research to advance the role of science within art history, curatorial scholarship, archaeology, and conservation. The goals of the program are to enrich the breadth, scope, and reach of scientific studies in the arts and in the wider field of conservation in the United States and abroad, by leveraging resources at the Art Institute of Chicago and materials-related departments at Northwestern University. This research and education initiative also provides enhanced training opportunities for participants through involvement in university-museum multidisciplinary programs.



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Start a research project in collaboration with Northwestern University faculty and Art Institute of Chicago staff.

Featured Projects

View our projects which strike a balance between object-based (for example the study of a specific work of art, or groups of objects) and objected-inspired work (for example the development of new investigation methods or testing of a new conservation treatment).

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Uncovering Hidden Details in Picasso's La Miséreuse Accroupie

Researchers used multiple modes of light to uncover details hidden beneath the visible surface of Pablo Picasso’s Blue Period painting.
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Discovering the Birthplace of a Picasso Bronze

Scientists use non-invasive techniques to trace five sculptures to foundry in WWII Paris
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Tebtunis Mummy Portraits

A collaboration between Northwestern scientists and Argonne National Laboratory provides insights into an 1,800-year-old mummy and learning about the material microhistory of the painting tradition
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Surface-Shape Studies of Gauguin's Monoprints, Prints, and Drawings

Researchers used computational imaging to evaluate the surface structure of Gauguin’s graphic production with the aim of better understanding his printmaking and transfer processes
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Field Notes & Events

Field Notes

Diagnosing ‘art acne’ in Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings

Co-director Marc Walton and affiliate faculty member Oliver Cossairt presented their findings that metal soaps are responsible for the destructive pimple-like protrusions in Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings at the 2019 AAAS annual meeting in Washington DC.

The Center's Science for Art Fall 2018 Speaker Series welcomes Daniel Stromer on December 14th for his talk “Big Data of the Past: Non-invasive Digitization of Cultural Heritage”

Join us for a lecture and discussion on Cultural Heritage as one of Europe’s most precious political, economic and social assets. Since libraries, museums and archives nowadays start to use massive digitization, a lot of new possibilities arise with this newly generated data. Data extracted from this digital patrimony are the basis for the reconstruction of the historical evolution of most European cities and the economical, cultural, and migration networks between these urban nodes. Through ‘big data of the past’, the project aims to make the past as easily accessible as the present. Another goal is to investigate new methods of digitization for fragile documents. Non-invasive imaging techniques such as X-ray CT are capable of revealing hidden contents of documents that can not be opened anymore. This can help conservators to store information in a digital manner before manually opening or cleaning scrolls or manuscripts.

The Center's Science for Art Fall 2018 Speaker Series welcomes Dr. Alessandra Satta on December 5th for her talk "Towards Modelling the Degradation of Pigments: Cd-Yellow as a Case Study"

Join us for a lecture and discussion on the application of computational physics techniques to the study of materials significant in the field of Cultural Heritage: solid compounds constituting the colored pigments in the paintings of the European Impressionist and Modernist period. Several of the historical colored pigments from the late 1800 and early 1900 are undergoing an irreversible degradation process. In the specific case of the brilliant yellow pigment that takes its colouration from cadmium sulfide (CdS), a II-VI wide-gap semiconducting compound, the role of structural defects is the subject of a still on-going research that aims to link the history of the material to the reactivity of the pigment surface.


MSE Winter Colloquia: Grace Xing

February 26
4:00 PM - 5:00 PM

MSE Spring Colloquia: Enrique Martinez

April 2
4:00 PM - 5:00 PM

MSE Spring Colloquia: Junqiao Wu

April 9
4:00 PM - 5:00 PM

Deadline for Submitting Internal Research Project Proposals

April 15
All Day

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