Eyeing art from a scientific viewpoint

Nathan Newman says he “likes being around artists because they have the same appetite to create art as I do to understand science and the world around us.”

He sees in his fellow scientists and engineers, and in many of his students, “an unbridled passion that dominates their life, just like the desire to create imagery that I find among artists.”


Newman, the Lamonte H. Lawrence Professor in Solid State Science in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University, has contributed his expertise in physics and materials science to the art world in recent years. 

He performed scientific analysis to aid an investigation that determined a painting owned by the ASU Art Museum titled “The Pioneer and Indian,” purported to be an original by the famous American artist Frederic Remington, was in fact a forgery.

The detective work for a Danish artists’ collective called SUPERFLEX included producing infrared images to reveal graphite underdrawings on the painting’s canvas, and teaming with Dana Tepper, the museum’s chief conservator, to analyze the materials used in the painting at the atomic and microscopic levels.

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