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HUM 200 - Applied Humanities

Research and information guide to support the learning objectives of this course.

Researching Artifact Mediums

Part of the work for the course projects in HUM 200, is to understand your artifact's medium or what the source is or is made from. Mediums can be things like:

What can we understand about these artifacts and how they are made? Is there a specific special technique that was used? What does that say about the time period or the artist that created it? 

Using the example from before, the painting Ophelia by Sir John Everett Millais This link opens in a new window is an example of a Pre-Raphaelite work. According to the Tate Museum, Millais began by sketching the landscape and the model of Ophelia before he began to paint. He spent as much time detailing the landscape and nature backgrounds as he did Ophelia herself. He purchased two pieces of canvas to create a double canvas and used lead white paint as a ground. The tubes of colored paint that he used were mixed by specific art material dealers and had an array of colors/pigments from minerals, precious stones, rocks, vegetables, insects, and plants. 

What do these things about this medium of painting/art, tell us? The fact that Millais spent as much time on the landscape as in the main feature which is Ophelia, tells us that he valued the landscape scene and how it was represented in the work. Many artists at the time may have spent more time on Ophelia, but not Millias. How representative is this of the Pre-Raphaelite artists? 

If we need to learn more about the medium and techniques used, we can certainly find more information. Try looking for secondary sources from books, encyclopedias, and scholarly articles on the specific artist and their techniques (if they are famous enough), or perhaps look at the greater type of art and any movements that are associated. For example, we could search for Millais and his painting techniques, Millais and how he is a representation of the Pre-Raphaelite artists, and so forth.


Tate Museum. (n.d). The Story of Ophelia. Retrieved from