ARTECHNE – Technique in the Arts, 1500-1950


In recent years, technical art history has emerged as a new field of investigation, connecting to other disciplines such as the history of science and technology, conservation, anthropology and material culture studies, which are all equally concerned with the history of making. At the present moment, the field is also witnessing clear signs of academic institutionalisation, with the establishment of journals, such as the one you are reading, and the founding of master programs in technical art history in Glasgow and Amsterdam. However, given that this is a new field of research, the central questions as well as approaches are not yet consolidated and, in fact, continue to be heavily debated. For this reason, we thought that the time was ripe for a state of the art of the field. Although not leading to a consensus, we hope that a good sense of the difference of opinions on the questions, objects of study and methodologies of technical art history emerges from the interviews below. The disciplinary background and professional identity of the interviewees is diverse: from conservation to art history to material culture studies, from museums to universities; with some interviewees happy to present themselves as technical art historians, others rejecting this label.

This forum emerged from a series of technical art history talks, organized by Sven Dupré and Erma Hermens, at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin in autumn and winter of 2014/15. The interviews were conducted by Sven Dupré’s students in the technical art history seminar at the Freie Universität Berlin in the winter semester 2014/15.