Rocks, Minerals, and the History of Art

Heather McCune Bruhn

October 1 to October 6

This one-week exhibition showcases the research and materials for “Rocks, Minerals, and the History of Art” (Art H 107/Geosci 107), a new Interdomain course developed by Assistant Teaching Professor of Art History Heather McCune Bruhn and Associate Research Professor of Geosciences Maureen Feineman.  The course, which investigates a select group of rocks and minerals used in the production of art between the Prehistoric Era and Early Modern period, will make its online debut in spring 2019. Students will explore ochre, garnet, lapis lazuli, rock crystal (quartz), igneous rocks [basalt, diorite and porphyry], alabaster and marble, with a focus on the materials’ chemical and physical properties; their occurrence in nature; the ways in which they are acquired; and specific works in which they are found. 

During the exhibition, visitors may examine samples of each material, read about their properties and key works made from them, and manipulate them using the techniques of artists throughout history. There will be stations for making and testing watercolor paint made from powdered ochre pigment, an area for crushing lapis lazuli to powder, and a third where visitors can make marks in alabaster, marble, and porphyry with a hammer and chisels. In addition to these hands-on activities, visitors can view photos and watch video clips made by Dr. McCune Bruhn on her travels, including visits to quarries and mines, technology museums, conservation labs, artists’ studios, and a pigment factory. 

On Thursday, October 4, from 2:00 – 3 :00 PM, Dr. McCune Bruhn will lead a discussion and demonstration in which visitors will explore additional techniques and handle rare samples of rocks and minerals.  On Saturday, October 6, from 5:30–6:30 PM, join us for a closing reception in collaboration with the Bugs, Boulders, Beakers: The Materiality of Artists’ Colors Symposium, to be held in the Borland Building from October 5–6.