Reading Surfaces: painting techniques over time

The course will consider the histories of artists’ materials, tools and techniques as they play out on the surfaces of primarily Western paintings c.1300-1800. Close and long looks will be given to paintings inside local museum collections. These sensory experiences will provide a tactile overview of past strategies to represent aspects of the world in two dimensions, from light to dark grounds, from direct to indirect application of color, and from egg to oil. Mechanisms by which paintings deteriorate, and the methods used to stall or quiet that deterioration, to restore the image, will also be observed and discussed. We will begin with 14th century Italian paintings and move forward in time with alternating focus on paintings from northern and southern Europe, and with connections and contrasts drawn to contemporary Ethiopian, Persian, and Latin American paintings. The relative sparseness of research focused on non-Western painting traditions will be critically engaged. Attention will be given to how technique can interact with content, how duration of gaze can manipulate perception, how mutability persists within every apparently static physical object, and how past methods of making can inspire those of today.  

Credits: 2.00

Course Code: HTA 319

Instructor(s): Annika Finne

  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.