Artists’ Writings on Materials and Techniques

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

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. The O’Donnell Institute supports documentation and research on artists’ writings.


In a symposium held February 24-25, 2017 with the collaboration of the Dallas Museum of Art and the Nasher Sculpture Center, the O’Donnell Institute brought together art historians, curators, and conservators to explore artists’ writings on materials and techniques.

The aim of the symposium was 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.

The program of the symposium and audio recordings of the sessions are available below.

Symposium Program PDF (>1 mb)
Artists’ Writings on Materials and Techniques Symposium Program.

Future symposia will explore specific topics and themes related to artists’ writings.