Artists’ Writings on Materials and Techniques

The Edith O'Donnell Institute of Art History
February 24-25, 2017

In writings ranging from journals and letters to workshop manuals, autobiographies, and poems, visual artists turn to text to describe the materials and techniques of their practice. Cennino Cennini instructed young painters in grinding pigments and preparing wooden panels in a vernacular manual that is also a nascent history and theory of Renaissance art. Jacopo Pontormo logged the day’s work along with his meals and his various physical complaints, and Benvenuto Cellini dramatized the casting of his bronze Perseus. Michelangelo’s Sonnet 5 is a wry lament about the torments of painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel: “...the brush that is always above my face, by dribbling down, makes it an ornate pavement.” Eugène Delacroix kept dozens of journals over the course of forty years, many of them bringing together text and sketches. And in three published journals Anne Truitt wrote to understand her work as a sculptor and as amother.

This symposium brings together art historians, curators, and conservators to explore artists’ writings about materials and techniques. The aim of the symposium is twofold: first, to define and explore the range of artists’ texts that treat working practices, and by extension to understand the relationships between artists’ textual and visual practices; and second, to ask how these writings inform our work as scholars, curators, and conservators. Convened by the Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History with the participation of the Dallas Museum of Art and the Nasher Sculpture Center, the symposium will take place over the course of two days in February 2017.


Michelangelo Buonarotti, Manuscript of Sonnet 5 with self-portrait, c. 1509–1510, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Florence

Friday, February 24, at The University of Texas at Dallas

Open to the public.
Directions to UT Dallas
Campus Map
For those driving to the UT Dallas campus, free parking will be available in Parking Structure 1 (or PS1 on the campus map; see the link above). A greeter will be on-site the morning of the symposium to indicate available parking and to direct you toward the symposium's locations.

McDermott Suite (McDermott Library, fourth floor)
9:00 a.m. — 9:30 a.m.
Coffee/tea for participants and attendees

9:30 a.m. — 10:00 a.m.
Welcome from Rick Brettell, Founding Director, The Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History

10:00 a.m. — 10:30 a.m.
Anna Lovatt (Southern Methodist University)
“I will myself be ultramarine”: Identity and Materiality in Anne Truitt’s Writings

10:30 a.m. — 11:00 a.m.
Leigh Arnold (Nasher Sculpture Center)
Conveying a Sense of Place: Nancy Holt’s Writings on Site-Specific Works

11:00 a.m. — 11:30 a.m.
Elpida Vouitsis (O’Donnell Institute)
The Resourceful Paul Gauguin

11:30 a.m. — 12:00 p.m.
Paul Galvez (O’Donnell Institute)
Conversations with Courbet

The Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History (ATEC 2.800)
12:00 p.m. — 1:45 p.m.
Lunch for participants and attendees at the O’Donnell Institute

McDermott Suite (McDermott Library, fourth floor)
2:00 p.m. — 2:30 p.m.
Amy Freund (Southern Methodist University)
Lifelike: Jean-Baptiste Oudry’s Writings on Painting and Color

2:30 p.m. — 3:00 p.m.
Mark Rosen (O’Donnell Institute)
Airopaidia: The Balloonist as Viewer, Surveyor, and Artist

3:00 p.m. — 3:30 p.m.
Sarah Kozlowski (O’Donnell Institute)
Piero: painter, writer

4:00 p.m. — 5:00 p.m.
Keynote Lecture
Michael Cole (Columbia University)
Techniques of Writing

5:00 p.m. — 6:00 p.m.
Reception for participants and attendees

The Wilcox Space, 824 Exposition Boulevard #9
By Invitation
7:30 p.m.
Dinner for participants at The Wilcox Space

Saturday, February 25, in the Arts District

The Dallas Museum of Art, Conservation Studio and Founders Room
By invitation
Directions to DMA

10:00 a.m.
Arrival at Ross Avenue entrance
Coffee/tea and pastries

10:30 a.m.
Presentations and roundtable conversation on artists’ writings and conservation practice with the participation of DMA conservators Laura Hartman and Fran Baas and special guests:
Carol Mancusi-Ungaro (The Whitney)
Title TBA
Mareika Opeña (Contemporary Conservation Ltd.)
Caring for Anne Truitt's minimal sculptures. A collaboration of Contemporary Conservation Ltd and the Truitt Estate

The Nasher Sculpture Center
Lunch and roundtable by invitation; keynote lecture and reception open to the public
Directions to Nasher 

12:30 p.m.
Lunch for participants

1:30 p.m.
Presentation and roundtable conversation with Catherine Craft (Nasher)
The Process of Translation / The Translation of Process: Questions raised by the works of Jean Arp

3:00 p.m.
Keynote Lecture
James Meyer (National Gallery of Art)
The Sign Painter

4:00 p.m.
Reception for participants and attendees

The Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History

The University of Texas at Dallas
800 West Campbell Road, ATC 11
Richardson, Texas 75080
Telephone (UT Dallas office): 972 883 2475
Fax: 972 883 2466


RSVP by February 10, 2017.

Day 1 Lectures and Keynote at UT Dallas
Day 1 Lunch at UT Dallas
Day 2 Keynote and Reception at the Nasher


Please direct any additional questions via e-mail to Sarah Kozlowski.