From 8 May 2019 09:00 to 10 May 2019 17:30

International Conference ‘The Making of Art Expertise: Changing Practices of Art History & Conservation, 1850–1950’

De kunstgalerij van Jan Gildemeester Jansz, Adriaan de Lelie, 1794-1795. Bron: Rijksmuseum
De kunstgalerij van Jan Gildemeester Jansz, Adriaan de Lelie, 1794-1795. Bron: Rijksmuseum

From 8 to 10 May the conference 'The Making of Art Expertise: Changing Practices of Art History & Conservation, 1850–1950' will take place in Utrecht and Amsterdam.

This conference focuses on the development of a science-based conservation practice and the emergence of art history as a ‘science of art’ (or Kunstwissenschaft) in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries (1850-1950). New approaches were developed to address technological aspects of ancient artefacts and Renaissance art works based on philological and chemical research that complemented and challenged traditions of connoisseurship.

claiming a position for art history in university taught science

Grounding the technical analyses of art works within scholarship of historical source texts and scientific analyses went hand in hand with attempts to claim a position for art history within the emerging disciplinary landscape of university taught sciences (Wissenschaften). In addition, new editorial series and journals appeared that were devoted to past and present technologies in the arts or to art technological source research (e.g. Technische Mitteillungen, Wiener Quellenschriften). Assessments were conducted by committees whose members represented diverse and changing fields of expertise, including artists, chemists, collectors, museum professionals and administrators, while collaborations between conservators and chemists also helped in the decision-making process for the conservation treatments of deteriorated objects.

professionalization of conservation

The establishment of museum laboratories in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries had an influence in the professionalization of conservation as a discipline. How was knowledge in conservation transmitted? How did developments in science and technology impact teaching in art history and conservation? And which scientific methods were used for the study and teaching of art history? This conference investigates emerging cultures of expertise in the period between 1850 and 1950 and the collaborations and conflicts between conservators, chemists and art historians, to understand who was considered an expert in the arts, and for which reasons. It sheds new light onto the disciplinary formation of art history and the professionalization of conservation.


Please register through an email to, stating your name, affiliation, and which day(s) you want to attend the conference (-and, if applicable, your preferred choice of thematic session on Thursday 9 May – before April 30th). There is no cost of attendance, but space is limited and registration is on a first-come-first-served basis. You can register for the full conference, or for just one or two day(s). Tea and coffee will be provided in the morning and during breaks. Lunch is not included, however there are numerous café’s in the local area around both venues. 

practical information

More information, including program and abstracts, is available here.

Start date and time
8 May 2019 09:00
End date and time
10 May 2019 17:30
Entrance fee
Free entrance