art history

Post image for A Lost Purple Pigment, Where Quantum Physics and the Terracotta Warriors Collide

The connection between contemporary quantum physics and China’s ancient Terracotta Warriors is a lost pigment called Han purple. The vibrant hue appeared in the Zhou dynasty and faded out sometime near 220 AD; art didn’t see a purple as vivid until 19th-century manufacturing.

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Post image for For the Harvard Art Museums, a Top-to-Bottom Renovation and Rethinking

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — On a warm day in June six years ago, the front doors of the Fogg Museum closed quietly. There was no banner reading “Closing Day” on Quincy Street at the edge of Harvard Yard, no ceremony, no press, no speech. At five o’clock, museum visitors shuffled out the exit in droves, toting travel books and the last discounted souvenirs.

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Post image for The World’s Oldest Art May Be This 430,000-Year-Old Zigzag on a Shell

The history of artistic expression got stretched back a few hundred thousand years this week with the identification of an engraved shell believed to have been carved by Homo erectus. That early human ancestor could rattle the long-held belief that the use of deliberate visual expression is specific to Homo sapiens.

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Post image for Let Them Eat Art: Queens Through the Ages

In her infamous speech at the British Museum last year, writer Hilary Mantel described Kate Middleton, future queen of England, as a “shop-window mannequin” whose sole purpose was to look pretty and give birth.

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Post image for A Pigment Library That Launched American Art Conservation

When the Harvard Art Museums reopen this Sunday after a six-year expansion project, historic pigments foundational to the field of art conservation in the United States will be on public view.

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Post image for Decoding Rome’s Old Master Graffiti

Most accounts of the history of graffiti have the art form really taking off in the 1970s, but art historian Charlotte Guichard dates its emergence to slightly earlier — the 16th century.

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Post image for A Child’s Drawings Preserved over the Centuries by “Magical Mud”

In one region of Russia, the consistency of the earth is just right that manuscripts dating back centuries emerge almost perfectly preserved. Over the past year, more than 1,000 of these birch bark artifacts from the 11th to 14th centuries have been exhumed from the soil of Novgorod, adding to a growing archive of written history.

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Material Friction: Americana and American Art

What did John Frederick Kensett, a 19th-century artist who was part of the Hudson River School, have in common with Thomas Matteson, a blanket chest-maker from Vermont?

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Pleistocene cave art from Sulawesi, Indonesia

New dating of rock art in Indonesia shows that at the same time stampedes of bulls and horses were appearing in the Ardèche caves in France, similar art was being made in the Pacific region.

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Frédéric Bazille’s

A paper released earlier this month by a group of Rutgers University researchers applies computer vision and machine learning to the question of artistic influence.

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