Skip to main content Aller au menu Aller à la recherche

AddToAny share buttons

5. Materials, techniques, crafts: theoretical and practical approaches to artistic making

La modiste, Jean Veber, 1907-1909, estampe, Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France (source : Gallica).

Knowledge of the production modes of art works in their most diverse aspects is the core of the research addressed within this theme, whatever fields, objects (concrete, glass, furniture, clothing, paper) and chronology, from the Middle Ages to present days.

This work leads researchers to invest in the material study of art works (knowledge and choice of materials), but also in the creative process (gestures, tools, practices, etc.) and in professional contexts (institutional and legal frameworks, …), challenging the image of solitary creative genius in favor of a collective vision of the work of art.


It is necessary to be interested on one hand, in the material study of the works; it is about defining the origin, specific qualities and history of each of their components. This approach cannot be exclusive, but is necessary to weigh all possible reasons for the choice of materials, as well as their impacts on the execution, and ultimately, the finished work. The study of the constituent materials of the work implies today that research is positioned at the interface of several disciplines, such as sciences of matter and environment on one hand, economic and social history on the other: glass from stained glass in connection with glass painters and chemists; restoration methods and materials; building materials for architecture, etc. This material Art history covers many specialties represented at the Centre André-Chastel, from prints to the art of gardens, through clothing and even video art.

On the other hand, it is necessary to focus on creative processes. Their engines are certainly material, but above all human. This is about rethinking the contours of our discipline and broadening them to a cultural and social approach. It is, for instance, at the heart of studies on decorative arts and fashion history. In many cases, it is necessary to go beyond the recurring and sterile question of arts hierarchy, and to offer new methodological and theoretical proposals. The creative processes envisaged, according to the different specialties of the theme's members are numerous, whether it is a question of architectural drawing, practices of collage, restoration of stained glass or contemporary practices of gardeners.

Finally, we must consider the question of the emergence, organization and development of professions specificaly devoted to artistic creation, which constitute a major subject of reflection, whether it is a corporate, academic or institutional framework. Many questions arise from this, related to the sharing of the invention and distribution of work. Within Theme 5, they concern among other things, the relationship between painters and glass painters, costume designers and performers in the 17th century, the profession of gardener or the changes in the profession of decorative artist in the 20th century. They thus make the art historian the witness of decisive levers for artistic creation.

Members attached to the theme

Teachers-researchers Sorbonne Université

PAST Sorbonne Université

CNRS researchers

Heritage curators ministère de la Culture

Engineers CNRS

Emeritus professors Sorbonne Université

Theme’s news