Ott Lecture to explore scientific analysis of art

Karen Trentelman
Karen Trentelman
Image Credit: Courtesy photo

Using science to discover how works of art were created, how they changed and how they can be preserved is the focus of the next Arnold C. Ott Lectureship in Chemistry.

Karen Trentelman, senior scientist at the Getty Conservation Institute, will talk about how scientific analysis provides a deeper understanding of art. Trentelman leads the Technical Studies research group at the institute, which works worldwide to conserve visual arts, according to its website.

Trentelman will present examples of research on items in the collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum, which range from Egyptian mummies to paintings by Rembrandt, to help illustrate how scientific study enhances knowledge of both art and the artists.

The lecture, titled "Beyond Beauty: Using Scientific Analysis to Uncover Hidden Beauty in Works of Art," is at 6 p.m. Oct. 10 in the Loosemore Auditorium at the DeVos Center on the Pew Grand Rapids Campus. A public reception will be held at 5 p.m.

"We are excited to bring in a world-renowned chemist," said Laurie Witucki, professor of chemistry. "Dr. Trentelman will present her work, which makes use of modern analytical chemistry techniques in studies ranging from discovering hidden paintings under famous works of art such as those by Rembrandt to examining medieval manuscripts in order to see underdrawings below the surface paint layers."

Trentelman will also conduct a chemistry seminar at 1 p.m. Oct. 11 in the Pere Marquette Room at the Kirkhof Center on the Allendale Campus. The seminar, called "Art as Evidence: The Scientific Examination of Works of Art," will address the techniques and materials needed for conservation and the constant need to find new analytical approaches and instrumentation.

Before joining the institute in 2004, Trentelman was a research scientist at the Detroit Institute of Arts. She received a doctorate in chemistry from Cornell University and conducted postgraduate research at Northwestern University and the University of Illinois, Chicago.

The Arnold C. Ott Lectureship in Chemistry was created and endowed by a gift from the late Arnold C. and Marion Ott. Arnold Ott was a leading chemist and entrepreneur in West Michigan. He was also one of the co-founders of Grand Valley and served on the Board of Trustees for 28 years.

For more information, contact the Chemistry Department at (616) 331-3317 or visit