Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE Science and Art

LEVEL 02 - Years 2, 3 in Modular Undergraduate Course


DEPARTMENT Mathematics and Science Education

DESCRIPTION This study-unit considers fine art and the connection with and development of scientific disciplines in this area of study and activity. Artworks raise complex questions in science, and the activity and the research are inherently intra- and inter-disciplinary, and involve a range of related discourses. This will be developed and shown through the treatment of a number of cases. Amongst others, one aspect that will be treated (from various perspectives) involves the deterioration processes in works of art. This study-unit purports the intersections of art, science and related areas, and the ensuing engagement of a range of audiences in the arts and in science.

Study-Unit Aims:

The aims of this study-unit are to introduce students to and make them aware of:
- the intimate and useful interconnections between the 'understanding' and 'explanation' of artworks and the various areas of science;
- the usefulness of scientific investigation and analysis, and the ensuing information, in getting to know better the artifact (constituent materials, manufacturing techniques, provenance studies, historical information, etc.) and its importance in conservation and restoration of artworks; and
- case studies that involve both artistic as well as scientific investigative techniques - that illustrate the interdisciplinary nature involved - as examples of how conservation treatment requires a background of both the arts and sciences for a thorough understanding of how best to intervene on any damaged artefact; examples will be presented with paintings, artworks on paper, leather and parchment, and the biodeterioration of rock art and wall paintings in Maltese hypogea.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding:

By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:
- describe the different art periods/movements, inherent characteristics, iconographies, etc;
- illustrate that artworks can be very complex objects, usually made up of strata or mixes of different materials;
- illustrate how certain elements and principles in works of art are also of a scientific nature;
- recognise that the conservation and the caring of artworks is a science and that reference to science is a must in conservation professionals' day-to-day decisions (‘tailoring’ the actual treatment and defining the materials and methodologies to be used);
- identify the scientific and technological advancement in the field: the why and how, and historical development;
- recognise the edge of the modern over the 'conventional' conservator, as a result of science and scientific research, and ensuing knowledge;
- discuss and explain how one arrives to knowing the artwork: the original manufacturing technique and its constituent materials, potential deterioration patterns, which is crucial in increasing the artwork's historical knowledge and enables informed decisions for a more holistic treatment;
- recognise and discuss the different analytical, diagnostic and instrumental techniques available;
- recognise that different groups of living organisms cause biodeterioration of works of art, and their 'action' with respect to the aesthetic, physical and chemical changes they cause; and
- recognise and explain artists' materials and the need to experiment with them: pigments, stains, organic binders, acrylates, etc.

2. Skills:

By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:
- identify the relationship between the underlying theoretical scientific principles and apply them to artistic activity and artworks, in a variety of contexts;
- practice critical thinking, interaction and problem solving; and
- explain the relationships and the 'workings' between scientific activity and art to various audiences.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

Main Texts:

- Strosberg, E., Art and Science 2nd Edition, Abbeville Press Publishers, 2015.
- Groen, K., Paintings in the Laboratory: Scientific Examination for Art History and Conservation, Archetype Publications Ltd, 2014.
- May, E., and Jones, M., (Editors), Conservation Science: Heritage Materials, RSC Publishing, 2006.
- Lister, T., Conservation Chemistry: An Introduction, Royal Society of Chemistry, 2005.
- Caneva, G., Nugari, M. P., and Salvadori, O., Plant Biology for Cultural Heritage: Biodeterioration and Conservation, Getty Publications, 2008.
- A list of readings will also be given during the course of the study-unit.

Supplementary Readings:

- Berry, M., and Osborne, C., The Chemistry of Art, Royal Society of Chemistry and National Gallery Company Limited, 2000.
- Sgamellotti, A., et al., (Editors), Science and Art: The Painted Surface, Royal Society of Chemistry, 2014.
- Baglioni, P., and Chelazzi, D., Nanoscience for the Conservation of Works of Art, RSC Publishing, 2013.
- Bomford, D., A Closer Look: Conservation of Paintings, National Gallery Company, 2009.
- Studying And Conserving Paintings - Occasional Papers on the Samuel H. Kress Collection, Archetype Publications, 2006.

STUDY-UNIT TYPE Lecture and Fieldwork

Assessment Component/s Resit Availability Weighting
Oral Examination (20 Minutes) Yes 20%
Presentation (20 Minutes) Yes 40%
Case Study (Take Home) Yes 40%

LECTURER/S Martina Caruana
Agatha Grima
Martin M. Musumeci (Co-ord.)
Daniel Vella
Gabrielle Zammit
Theresa Zammit Lupi

The University makes every effort to ensure that the published Courses Plans, Programmes of Study and Study-Unit information are complete and up-to-date at the time of publication. The University reserves the right to make changes in case errors are detected after publication.
The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the study-unit description above applies to the academic year 2019/0, if study-unit is available during this academic year, and may be subject to change in subsequent years.