Chemistry, Art & Architecture
The 15th of July is not only the feast day of St Swithin, where legend warns that rain on this day spells bad weather for the ensuing 6 weeks; it is also the birthday of two of the most influential creative forces of the 17th Century; Rembrandt and Inigo Jones.
Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669) was born in the city of Leiden in the Dutch Republic. Considered one of the greatest painters in art history, the majority of Rembrandt's works were self-portraits and depictions of Biblical & mythological scenes.
As well as coming at the height of the artistic Baroque period, Rembrandt's lifetime saw the beginnings of early modern chemistry. In 1661, Robert Boyle published 'The Sceptical Chymist' which made the distinction between modern chemistry and alchemy. Among the 58 titles written by Boyle that form part of the RSC's Historical Collection is an original copy of the second edition of Boyle's seminal work.
The Royal Society of Chemistry has had links to the world of art since its' very beginnings. The Chemical Society's first meetings were held in rooms at the Society of Arts, John Street, Adelphi (by the Strand) in 1841. A year later, the library was begun on this site; comprising, at that time, of a single bookcase.
The Masquers by Inigo Jones
Between 1949 and 1967 the Royal Institute of Chemistry published a series of 'Lectures, Monographs and Reports' on a variety of topics. One title, 'The Scientific Examination of Paintings' was written by A.E.A. Werner, a Research Chemist at the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square. Werner's monograph is a study of the conservation of paintings. In addition to aiming to increase the knowledge of the materials used in classical paintings it looks at the scientific methods employed to help identify forgeries.
In 1999, the RSC collaborated with the National Gallery on an education pack for schools, 'The Chemistry of Art'. This pack provided information and resources to students and teachers looking at the close relationship of art and chemistry, showing the techniques and materials used to create a selection of paintings on display at the National Gallery.
Berry, M, 1999, Chemistry of Art: A Resource Pack from the Royal Society of Chemistry and the National Gallery, London, Royal Society of Chemistry, London (RSC Item ID: 20010659)
Boyle, R, 1680, The Sceptical Chymist, Richard Davis & B Took, Oxford (RSC Item ID: HC0225)
Werner, A E A, 1952, The Scientific Examination of Paintings, Royal Institute of Chemistry, London (RSC Item ID: HC3960)
Also of interest
A touring art exhibition visiting cities across Europe.
The Royal Academy of Arts
Royal Institute of British Architects
Life and Work
Rembrandt van Rijn
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Contact and Further Information
Library & Information Centre
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