JCE Resources for Chemistry and Art | Journal of Chemical Education

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Chemical Education Today

NCW 2001: Celebrating Chemistry and Art

JCE Resources for Chemistry and Art


by Erica K. Jacobsen

It’s been said a picture is worth a thousand words. Can you decipher the message at the right? The American Chemical Society’s theme for National Chemistry Week (NCW) 2001 is Celebrating Chemistry and Art. This can mean many things—not just paintings and photographs, but also pottery, textiles, music, and more. This annotated bibliography shares the best “pictures” of chemistry and art from past issues of the Journal of Chemical Education—many thousands of well-crafted words and articles that tie in with NCW’s 2001 theme. Searches in the JCE Index yielded nearly 300 articles related to chemistry and art. The text of approximately 150 of these were read. The best of these are described here. The year 2000 marked this author’s first NCW annotated bibliography. This year continues in a similar format. Each article has been characterized as a demonstration, experiment, calculation, activity, video, or informational item; several fit in more than one classification. The most recent articles in each category are listed first. Also included is an evaluation as to which levels the article may serve. Articles that appeared adaptable to other levels, but are not designed explicitly for those levels, are labeled “poss. h.s.” “poss. elem.”, and so forth. Articles are separated into the categories •



Glass, Pottery, and Ceramics

Interdisciplinary Courses in Art and Chemistry

Light and Color



Paint and Pigments


Textiles and Paper

Many of the articles are informational. Instructors may wish to organize interdisciplinary teaching efforts with an art teacher. Students could create their own works of art under the direction of an art teacher, while the chemistry instructor could provide background information. Additionally, this issue of JCE and next month’s issue have art-related articles and ready-to-use Classroom Activities, many of which are referenced in this paper. Acknowledgment The author thanks Nancy Gettys for extensive searches of the JCE Online index that were the groundwork for this resource paper. W

Special JCE Online Supplements

You will find 39 articles marked with a W. This indicates that the full text of the article is available to subscribers on JCE Online. Since all references are to Journal articles, they appear in abbreviated form, including only year, volume, page.

★ Art Communicating Science through Photography. Frankel, F.; 2001, 78, 1312. Informational; h.s./coll. Describes with illustrative examples how the author designs powerful imagery as a means of communicating science. W

Photo by Felice Frankel, copyright © 1992.

News from Online: Chemistry and Art. Judd, C. S.; 2001, 78, 1322. Activity; h.s./coll. Briefly describes over 20 Internet sites dealing with chemistry and art. W

Art Hazards—Educating the Artist. Denio, A. A.; 1985, 62, 772. Informational; h.s./coll. Discusses health hazards associated with art and the author’s efforts to help colleagues in his university’s art department to recognize these hazards and to promote safe practices in their teaching.


A photograph by Felice Frankel demonstrates that communicating science visually can also have an artistic aspect.

A Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems: Art and Science. Bent, H. A.; 1981, 58, 331. Informational; h.s./coll. Combines views on art and science by interweaving remarks by artists such as Picasso and van Gogh with ideas on thermodynamics. Science and the Fine Arts. Young, J. A.; 1981, 58, 329. Informational; h.s./coll. Describes the author’s identification of commonalities and contrasts between the fields of science and the fine arts. W Neutrography:

Particles versus Waves. DeLorenzo, R.; 1981, 58, 327. Informational/Calculation; h.s./coll. Describes how neutron radiography (neutrography) works, and how it was used with a work of art. Poses various questions regarding the process.

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★ Art, continued Synthetic Materials in Art Conservation. Werner, A.; 1981, 58, 321. Informational; h.s./coll. Describes the chemistry of various synthetic materials and how they can be used to conserve antiquities and works of art. Chemical Hazards in the Ar ts. Wheeler, G.; 1980, 57, 281. Informational; h.s./coll. Outlines possible dangers associated with various chemicals used in art. Discusses routes of entry into the body for chemicals and high risk groups especially susceptible Ceremonial mask from to chemical hazards. Nigeria after conservation efforts using synthetic materials.

Chemistry and Art: Thermoluminescence and Forgery. Rogers, F. E.; 1973, 50, 388. Informational; coll./poss. h.s. Describes the chemistry of thermoluminescence and its use in detecting pottery and ceramic art forgeries. W Chemistry

in Art: Radiochemistry and Forgery. Rogers, F. E.; 1972, 49, 418. Informational; h.s./coll. Describes a radiochemical investigation of a white lead pigment that proved a painting to be a forgery.

A painting originally attributed to Vermeer was proved to be a forgery using radiochemical techniques. Photo Boymans-van Beuningen Museum, Rotterdam.

★ Dyes W Chemistry

Comes Alive! Vol. 5: Abstract of Special Issue 29 on CD-ROM. Jacobsen, J. J.; Johnson, K.; Moore, J. W.; Trammell, G.; 2001, 78, 423. [available from JCE Software] Video with voiceover; h.s./coll. Contains a 1 minute video on dyes in the section “Nature of Proteins”. Compares the results of a dye on cotton and wool fibers.



The Write Stuff: Using Paper Chromatography to Separate an Ink Mixture. Journal Staff; 2000, 77, 176A. Activity; all levels Students use paper chromatography to find out if black markers contain only black ink, or a mixture of colored dyes, and investigate the effects of different solvents such as vinegar and ammonia.


W Colors

to Dye for: Preparation of Natural Dyes. Journal Staff; 1999, 76, 1688A. Activity; all levels Students extract dyes from onion skins and blueberries, use them to dye cloth, and investigate ways to change the color and prevent it from washing out.


by… Chemists! Williams, K. R.; 1999, 76, 154. Informational; h.s./coll. Describes past JCE articles on dyes. Includes a portion of a 1926 article that had actual dyed fabric samples pasted in.

The Chemistry of Fabric Reactive Dyes. Bonneau, M. C.; 1995, 72, 724. Informational/Experiment; h.s./coll. Describes the method of application and chemistry of the Procion MX fiber reactive dyes used in tie dyeing.

Convenient Apparatus for Small-Scale Dyeing with Indigo. Boykin, D. W.; 1998, 75, 769. Experiment; coll./poss. h.s. Students use a microscale apparatus for a hot indigo dye bath that avoids the problems involved with the typically used open-beaker setup. World of Color: Investigating the Chemistry of Vat Dyes. Epp, D. N.; 1995, 72, 726. Experiment; h.s./coll./poss. elem. Students investigate the effects of various heat and light sources in developing Inkodye brand vat dyes on cotton fabric.

Photo J. Jacobsen, E. Jacobsen, N. Gettys

W Color

Microscale Synthesis of Mauve. Scaccia, R. L.; Coughlin, D.; Ball, D. W.; 1998, 75, 769. Experiment; coll. Students produce the purple dye mauve in a microscale organic chemistry experiment. Includes an alternate method for isolating larger amounts of the dye.

Natural dyes from onion skins and blueberries can be used to dye cloth.

Tablecloth dyed with fresh indigo plant leaves using a hammering process.

A section of a 1926 JCE article that contained actual dyed fabric samples.

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NCW 2001: Celebrating Chemistry and Art

★ Dyes, continued Making Colorful Patterns on Paper Dyed with Red Cabbage Juice. Suzuki, C.; 1991, 68, 588. Experiment; all levels Combines the traditional Japanese paper technique “orizome” with the chemistry of acid-base indicators. Uses red cabbage and acids and bases found at home. An Indigo Plant as a Teaching Material. Torimoto, N.; 1987, 64 , 332. Experiment; all levels Students use fresh and dried indigo plant leaves to dye cloth. Discusses the chemistry involved, along with a procedure to analyze the dye with TLC.

A rendering of a 1568 dyeing establishment. Photo Bettman Archive.

Sir William Henry Perkin, Pioneer in Color. Nagel, M. C.; 1981, 58 , 305. Informational; h.s./coll. A brief biography of Sir William Henry Perkin. Highlights his discovery of the first synthetic dye.

W The

Chemistry of Plant and Animal Dyes. Séquin-Frey, M.; 1981, 58, 301. Informational; h.s./coll. Introduces the history of natural dyes. Discusses the chemistry of various dye processes and includes chemical structures of many natural dyes. Pittacal—The First Synthetic Dyestuff. Kauffman, G. B.; 1977, 54, 753. Informational; h.s./coll. Tells an amusing story about how the first synthetic dyestuff was discovered due to a chemist’s problem with dogs. W

Colors for Textiles: Ancient and Modern. Bender, M.; 1947, 24, 2. Informational; h.s./coll. Describes the history of dyeing textiles. Discusses some of the most noteworthy natural dyes, such as indigo and madder, and the use of mordants. W

Madder root, used to create red dye, as seen in a woodcut by Leonhart Fuchs from 1543.

W The

Joy of Color in Ceramic Glazes with the Help of Redox Chemistry. Denio, A. A.; 2001, 78, 1298. Informational; h.s./coll. Describes the use of kilns to produce various effects with glazes on pottery. Photo by National Liberty Museum

Glass—Sand + Imagination. Kolb, K. E.; Kolb, D. K.; 2000, 77, 812. Informational; h.s./coll. Describes different types of glasses, methods of forming glass, and the field of art glass, along with photographs. W

Testing for Lead in the Environment. Sundback, K. A.; 1996, 73, 669. Experiment; h.s./coll. Students test for lead in ceramic glazes and paints on household items. Uses minimal chemicals: concentrated acetic acid and potassium iodide. W

“The Flame of Liberty” is a 20-foot tall glass sculpture created by the artist Dale Chihuly.

An Overview of Oriental Lacquer: Art and Chemistry of the Original High-Tech Coating. Snyder, D. M; 1989, 66, 977. Informational; coll./poss. h.s. Outlines the history and chemistry of the Oriental lacquer of China and Japan.

Photo Paul Romanick

★ Glass, Pottery, and Ceramics Coffee jars with spoons show oxidation firing of glazes containing different metallic compounds. From left: iron; chromium; titanium with a trace of iron; copper.

The Preparation of Various Kinds of Glass. Jones, R. F.; 1978, 55, 450. Demonstration; h.s./coll. Gives demonstration instructions for making several kinds of glass. Raku: A Redox Experiment in Glass. Cichowski, R. S.; 1975, 52, 616. Experiment; coll./poss. h.s. Students make and color glass using the raku process and investigate redox reactions involving the colorant. Requires a furnace capable of temperatures up to 1100 °C. W

Mikhail Lomonosov and the Manufacture of Glass and Mosaic. Leicester, H. M.; 1969, 46, 295. Informational; h.s./coll. Outlines Mikhail Lomonosov’s research into dyes, pigments, and colored glasses. Focuses on his experiments with glass and his own use of glass to create mosaics. Early Pennsylvania Pottery. Billinger, R. D.; 1940, 17, 407. Informational; h.s./coll./poss. elem. Describes work done by Pennsylvania potters during colonial times. Includes information on materials used, products made, and methods employed. W

Chemistry for Potters. Denio, A. A.; 1980, 57, 272. Informational; h.s./coll. Discusses chemistry relevant to potters and their craft. Subject of a letter to the editor: Copper in Apple Ash Glazes for Ceramics: An Example of Environmental Chemistry and Chemistry for Potters. Canty, A. J.; Canty, C. D.; 1981, 58, 448.


A reproduction of the Lycurgus Cup illustrates production of color by absorption, described in “Why Objects Appear as They Do”.

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★ Interdisciplinary Courses in Art and Chemistry Precolumbian Chemistry: A Descriptive Chemistry and History of Technology from Natural Resources: Metallurgy, Pottery, Pigments, Dyes, Agriculture, and Medicine. Robinson, J. B.; 1995, 72, 416. Informational; h.s./coll. Describes a high school course on precolumbian chemistry. Introduces descriptive chemistry in a cultural context. Developing a Science Course for Nonscientists on the Chemistry of Art. Henchman, M.; 1994, 71, 670. Informational; h.s./coll. Describes a college science course “Chemistry and Art”. Includes a brief listing of experiments used and lecture topics covered. The Chemistry of Art: A Laboratory Intensive Course Designed to Interest Nonscientists in Chemistry. Schrenk, J. L.; Malde, P.; Bordley, J. L. 1993, 70, 389. Informational; h.s./coll. Describes a college science course that explores the roles of chemistry in traditional artistic processes such as painting and metalcasting.

Art in Chemistry: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Teaching Art and Chemistry. Greenberg, B.; 1988, 65, 148. Informational/Experiment; h.s./coll./poss. elem. Describes a high school course in chemistry and art. Gives a brief overview of the topics and experiments used in each of seven units. Chemistry for Artists and Art Buffs. Denio, A. A.; 1979, 56, 30. Informational/Experiment; h.s./coll. Describes a college course “Chemistry for Artists and Art Buffs”. Gives many examples of how chemistry blends with art, along with brief descriptions of experiments.

The April 1981 issue and its cover focused on chemistry and art.

★ Light and Color the Rainbow: Frontiers in Color Chemistry; Light and Color in Chemistry: Report on Two American Chemical Society Presidential Events. Gettys, N. S.; 1999, 76, 737. Informational; h.s./coll./poss. elem. Summarizes two ACS seminars on color in chemistry. Includes brief descriptions of each presentation, along with information on where to find them on the Internet. Photo by Lee Y. Park

W Pushing

The interaction of liquid crystals with polarized light can produce beautifully colored patterns.

W News from Online: A Spectrum of Color. Judd, C. S.; 1999, 76, 728. Activity; all levels Lists and briefly describes 18 Internet sites dealing with light and color.


Simple Lab Activity to Teach Subtractive Color and Beer’s Law. Suding, H. L.; Buccigross, J. M.; 1994, 71, 798. Experiment; h.s./coll. Demonstrates the principles of subtractive color mixing, along with Beer’s law. Uses colored acetate sheets and a spectrophotometer. A Reacquaintance with the Limelight. Hocking, M. B.; Lambert, M. L.; 1987, 64, 306. Informational; coll./poss. h.s. Outlines the history of lighting systems used by theaters. Describes the authors’ reproduction of the limelight system, along with a discussion of its chemistry. Why Objects Appear as They Do. Brill, T. B.; 1980, 57, 259. Informational; h.s./coll. Shows how optical effects in art, antiquities, and nature can be understood using chemical and physical concepts. Chemistry and Artists’ Colors. Part I. Light and Color. Orna, M. V.; 1980, 57, 256. Informational; h.s./coll. Discusses the nature of light and color and light modification to produce color.

CD Light: An Introduction to Spectroscopy. Journal Staff; 1998, 75, 1568A. Activity; h.s./coll. Students create a spectroscope with cardboard and a compact disc, and use it to investigate the nature of light and how different colors of light react with colored matter. W

How Many Colors in Your Computer? Discovering the Rules for Making Colors. Journal Staff; 1998, 75, 312A. Activity; all levels Students investigate the colors displayed on a computer screen and mix these colors of light. W

The mixing of colors seen here can also be illustrated using a computer screen in “How Many Colors in Your Computer?”

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NCW 2001: Celebrating Chemistry and Art

★ Metalwork Photo Bill Seely, Reactive Metals Studio

Coloring Titanium and Related Metals by Electrochemical Oxidation. Gaul, E.; 1993, 70, 176. Experiment; coll./poss. h.s. Students anodize titanium using a DC power supply and an electrolyte, producing iridescent oxide colors on the metal surface. Illustrates electrochemical principles and thin-layer interference. Artistic Metalwork and Chemical Technology. Mickey, C. D.; 1981, 58, 315. Informational; h.s./coll. Discusses the artistic use of various metals by past civilizations, with descriptions of specific artifacts. Includes history of their use, their common geological occurrences, and chemistry of their metallurgy and refining. Corrosion and Preservation of Bronze Artifacts. Walker, R.; 1980, 57, 277. Informational; coll. Discusses how bronze was produced and used throughout history. Describes the corrosion of both copper and bronze with suggestions for protection. Artifacts and the Electromotive Series. Mickey, C. D.; 1980, 57, 275. Informational; h.s./coll. Poses the question of why more artifacts are made of gold than iron. Discusses the activity series of metals and relates this to the fact that few iron artifacts survive.

Photo Bill Seely, Reactive Metals Studio


An anodized niobium sample shows the range of colors produced by varying the voltage during anodizing.

A titanium vessel spun from a flat sheet at high heat; the finish is the oxides formed during the process.

★ Music Humor and Music in Physical Chemistry. Eberhart, J. G.; 1995, 72, 1076. Activity; coll./poss. h.s. Discusses the author’s use of humor and music in his physical chemistry classroom. Includes a 7 verse song by the author “The Old PChem Blues”.

W Thermodynamics,

Folk Culture, and Poetry. Smith, W. L.; 1975, 52, 97. Activity; h.s./coll. Students search for the concepts of thermodynamics in poems, adages, nursery rhymes, and folk and popular songs. Subject of a letter to the editor: Thermodynamics and Song. Kybett, B. D.; 1975, 52, 752.

★ Paint and Pigments Color, and Art. Orna, M. V.; 2001, 78, 1305. Informational; coll./poss. h.s. Gives a brief overview of chemistry’s relationship to art, with emphasis on pigments and artists’ colors. W Chemistry,

W Pigments

of Your Imagination: Making Artists’ Paints. Gettys, N. S.; 2001, 78, 1320A. Activity; all levels Students make usable egg tempera paints in a variety of colors using pigments found around the home and investigate their properties. Photo J. Jacobsen and R. Wildman

Artists’ pigments used in ancient times: Verdigris, Chinese Vermilion, Venetian Red.


Chemistry and Artists’ Pigments. Butler, I. S.; Furbacher, R. J.; 1985, 62, 334. Informational/Experiment; coll./poss. h.s. Describes the syntheses and chemistry of four pigments that can be used to make paint: alizarin red, copper phthalocyanine blue, cadmium sulfide yellow, and chromium oxide green. The Spilled Can of Paint. Perkins, R.; 1983, 60, 343. Calculation; h.s./coll. Poses and solves the following problem: Someone tipped over a gallon can of paint in the center of a room of floor area 125 ft2. If the paint spreads evenly and covers the entire floor, what will the thickness of the paint layer be? A Short History of the Chemistry of Painting. Friedstein, H. G.; 1981, 58, 291. Informational; h.s./coll. Outlines a short history of the chemistry of painting. Discusses painting of different cultures. Contains an extensive table of information about artists’ pigments used in the past.

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★ Paint and Pigments, continued W The

Case of the Isotopic Artist. O’Connor, R.; 1980, 57,

271. Calculation; h.s./coll. Gives background information about isotope ratios in white pigments. Readers are given an art forgery problem based on the information. Information about the solution is availableW in JCE 1972, 49, 418, which is described earlier in this paper.

Chemistry and Artists’ Colors. Part II. Structural Features of Colored Compounds. Orna, M. V.; 1980, 57, 264. Informational; coll. Examines the kinds of chemical substances that exhibit color. Includes a table of representative inorganic artists’ pigments with their chemical formulas and properties.

Photo by M. V. Orna

Paints and Pigments. Schiek, R.; 1980, 57, 270. Informational; coll./poss. h.s. Includes five questions and brief answers relating to paints and pigments. For example, what is the difference between a pigment and a dye, and what makes an ink permanent.

The blue pigment shown (rosettes) was made in modern times from a medieval recipe.

Chemistry and Artists’ Colors. Part III. Preparation and Properties of Artists’ Pigments. Orna, M. V.; 1980, 57, 267. Informational/Experiment; coll./poss. h.s. Briefly outlines syntheses for three pigments. Discusses properties of artists’ pigments and describes their classification.

★ Photography W

Blueprint Photography by the Cyanotype Process. Lawrence, G. D.; Fishelson, S.; 1999, 76, 1216A. / Accompanying article: W UV Catalysis, Cyanotype Photography, and Sunscreens. Lawrence, G. D.; Fishelson, S.; 1999, 76, 1199. Activity/Informational; h.s./coll./poss. elem. Students make UV-activated cyanotype paper and use it to take photographs. Includes information on the chemistry of cyanotypes.

The Diazo Copying Process: An Example and Demonstration of Applied Organic Chemistry for the Undergraduate Student. Osterby, B.; 1989, 66, 1026. Informational/Demonstration; coll. Describes the chemistry of the diazo copying process, which is commonly used to make blueprints. Provides instructions for demonstrating the process.

Photochemistry and Pinhole Photography: An Interdisciplinary Experiment. Rigos, A. A.; Salemme, K.; 1999, 76, 736A. Activity; h.s./coll. Students construct a pinhole camera and use it to take black and white photographs.



The Dynamic Interplay between Photochemistry and Photography. Forman, S. A.; 1975, 52, 629. Informational; h.s./coll. Examines early research into photochemical and photographic processes, beginning with Louis Daguerre’s daguerrotype method.

An early camera.

★ Textiles and Paper W The

Chemistry of Paper Preservation. Part 4. Alkaline Paper. Carter, H. A.; 1997, 74, 508. W Part 3. The Strengthening of Paper. 1996, 73, 1160. W Part 2. The Yellowing of Paper and Conservation Bleaching. 1996, 73, 1068. W Part 1. The Aging of Paper and Conservation Techniques. 1996, 73, 417. Informational; coll. Series of four articles discusses paper and its conservation. W Fiber

Identification: A Colorful Experiment for All Ages. Allan, J.; 1990, 67, 256. Experiment; all levels Students identify various fabrics using Shirlstain A, which contains several dyes that each selectively stain a given type of fiber.

Textile Chemistry for the Artist. Butler, S.; Malott, S.; 1981, 58, 295. Informational; h.s./coll. Focuses on the chemistry of fibers considered to be the most commonly used by artists. Discusses the characteristics of these fibers along with their reactions to dyes, bleaches, and solvents. Interesting Facts about Paper. Parsons, J. L.; 1949, 26, 114. Informational; h.s./coll./poss. elem. Describes the history of paper and papermaking. Includes many interesting pieces of information about the industry up until the 1940s when the article was written. W Some

JChemEd.chem.wisc.edu • Vol. 78 No. 10 October 2001 • Journal of Chemical Education