in historic painting
and sculpture techniques

About Northern Light Studio LLC

Mission: technical art history and its practical application

Northern Light Studio was founded as a collaborative enterprise to investigate, practice and teach the traditions and materials of studio art practice. As commercially produced art materials became increasingly available over the past 150 years much of this information has been lost and left to speculation. The introduction of scientific examination techniques in the conservation laboratory has yielded new discoveries about how artists of the past worked and what materials they used. We now know more about Vermeer’s pigments, Caravaggio’s working methods and the structure of Renaissance bronzes than ever before, yet by and large this important information has not been adequately communicated to those who could most benefit from it, particularly art historians and artists, but also the general public.

This integration of technical information into art historical studies has recently acquired the name, “Technical Art History”. In technical art history, the physical substance of a work of art is studied together with art historical considerations. The London National Gallery has been particularly active in developing this approach as the exhibition series, “Art in the Making”, and its extensive publications have amply demonstrated.

Our work at Northern Light Studio, while based on technical art history, focuses on an important practical component, namely the making of “reconstructions”. A reconstruction is a copy or partial copy of an original work of art based on accurate technical and historical information. Typically, such an exercise provides insights and information that cannot be learned from scientific and historical data alone.

Reconstruction work has been taught primarily in art conservation training programs. In recent years, however, the Amsterdam-Maastricht Summer University has offered a course for art historians, conservators, and conservation scientists on reconstructions of 16th and 17th century Dutch painting. Those who accept the challenge of making reconstructions gain a deeper understanding of the works they study and an enhanced perception when viewing works of art in general.

Origin and development of Northern Light Studio

The work of Northern Light Studio began in the summer of 1999 with a project that explored the painting technique of the great Dutch master, Johannes Vermeer. This led to lectures and workshops on Vermeer for groups in St. Louis, including classes at Webster and Washington Universities.

In 2002, on the occasion of a major exhibition of the work of Orazio and Artemisia Gentileschi at the St. Louis Art Museum, the Studio offered classes for docents, workshops for artists, and lecture demonstrations for the general public.

In the Fall semester of 2003 at Washington University in St. Louis, Phoebe Dent Weil offered an undergraduate course, “Historical European Painting Techniques: 14th-17th c.” in The School of Art, and a workshop for a seminar on Rembrandt in the Department of Art History and Archeology.

In 2004 the Studio presented programs on Rembrandt’s painting and drawing techniques and materials in conjunction with the exhibition, “Rembrandt’s Journey: Painter, Draftsman, Etcher,” at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and at the Art Institute of Chicago. The Boston program featured three hands-on workshops for general audiences where participants were able to examine and use actual tools and materials, and the Chicago presentation covered much of the same material in the form of a slide lecture.

Currently the Studio is continuing to investigate Rembrandt’s medium and to initiate studies on the painting techniques of Caravaggio.

For information about classes and individual instruction, contact us at the link below.

Telephone: (314) 588-9680
Fax: (314) 588-9681
© 2002 Northern Light Studio, LLC