Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
For information about visitor access, see COVID-19 library updates..

Conservation for Cultural Heritage Collections: Museums, Libraries and Archives: ART 524

Course Overview

ART 524b

Materials and Techniques Seminar

Mark Aronson
Chief Painting Conservator
Yale Center for British Art
203 432 2805

This class is meant to be an opportunity to learn and teach each other “stuff” about painting materials and techniques, mostly traditional. The classes will be divided between demonstrations and recipe making (cooking), making paintings (tasting) and discussing materials (critique).

Assignments and Reading


1. )  A class tour of your studio (DONE DURING 2nd CLASS MEETING)

2.)  Make paintings outside of class (the following issues can overlap)

  • A painting on a dark colored ground
  • A painting on a light colored ground
  • A painting on a solid support
  • A painting on a flexible support
  • Use of opaque paint
  • Use of transparent paint

3.)  Stretch a canvas, prepare a ground layer, paint on it (Stretching should be done during class)

4.)  Prepare a presentation a.) in front of a work of art in one of the two Yale museums OR b.)

solve a technical problem and present it to the class.  Length of presentations will ultimately depend on how many people are in the class.  Presentations will take place November 19th. 

a.)  Explain and discuss an artist’s technique standing in front of a painting at one of the two museums.  Research the painting techniques with library/on-line sources, in the case of a living artist you can also contact them and ask how they did it.  Compare the research you have done to what you have observed directly on the painting.

b.)  Solve a difficult technical problem you are having in your studio and present the solution in a class presentation.  Problems can be specific to your painting, or a theoretical problem.  For example, can you get paint to crack right away?  In one inch increments or in 1/8 inch increments?  Can you cast a pure film of acrylic resin and stretch it without the need of canvas?  Is there something you have observed in your paint you don’t like and can you make it go away?


 Books on Technique You Might Wish to Consult

Bomford, David

Art in the Making: Rembrandt National Gallery of Art:  London 1988

Bomford, David

Art in the Making Impressionism National Gallery of London, Yale University Press,1991

Bomford, David

Art in the Making:  Italian Painting Before 1400 National Gallery of London

Crook, Jo and Tom Learner

The Impact of Modern Paint.  London, Tate Gallery Publishing, 2000.

Cennini, Cennino D'Andrea

The Craftsman's Handbook:  The Italian "Il   Libro dell'Arte".  Trans. Daniel V.Thompson, Jr.  New York:  Dover Publications, 1960

Doerner, Max

The Materials of the Artist and Their Use in Painting, With Notes on the Techniques of the Old Masters.  Trans. Eugene Neuhaus. New York:  Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1934.


Gettens, Rutherford & George Stout*

Painting Materials:  A Short Encyclopedia, New York: Dover Publications, 1966.

Gottseggen, Mark David*

The Painter’s Handbook.  New York,  Watson-Guptill Publications, 2006

Hackney, Stephen, Rica Jones and Joyce Townsend

Paint and Purpose:  A study of technique in British Art.  London:  Tate Gallery Publishing, 1999


Kirsh, Andrea & Levenson, Rustin

Seeing Through Paintings Physical Examination in Art Historical Studies, Yale University Press, New Haven, London, 2000.

Learner, Thomas, Smithen, Patricia, Krueger Jay, W. and Schilling, Michael

Modern Paints Uncovered, Proceedings from the Modern Paints Uncovered Symposium, The Getty conservation Institute, Los Angeles, 2007.

Massey, Robert

Formulas for Painters.  New York:  Watson-Guptill Publications, 1967.

Mayer, Ralph

The Artists Handbook of Material and Techniques Fifth Edition, Faber and Faber: London 1991.

Merrifield, M.P

Original Treatises on the Arts of Painting. New York:  Dover Publications, 1967

Thompson, Daniel Varney

The Materials and Techniques of Medieval  Painting.  New York:  Dover Publications, 1956.

Welte, Kurt*

The Materials and Techniques of Painting.  New York:  Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1975.