Chemistry of Art

Chemistry of Art text overlaying paintings, sculptures, and chemical formulas


Academic Team:
Amber McConnell (
First-Year Experience Seminar Instructor
Isabella Engblom (
FIG Assistant

9 credits
UGST 109 First Year Experience Seminar- 1 Credit 
CRN: 16239: T: 2:00PM-2:50PM, MCK 473  
CH 111 Intro to Chemical Principles- 4 credits 
CRN: 11111: TR: 12:00PM-1:20PM, COL 150, +LAB CRN: 11112: F: 1:00PM-1:50PM, LLCS 101 
MATH 111Z Precalculus 1 – 4 Credits 
CRN: 13224: MW: 2:00PM-3:20PM, PLC 180, +LAB CRN: 13231: R: 3:00PM- 3:50PM, WIL 112 OR F: 11:00AM-11:50AM, TYKE 340 
About the FIG:

The Chemistry of Art class explores the fascinating intersection between chemistry and the creation, preservation, and analysis of artworks. In this FIG we will discuss how chemistry influences the composition, appearance, and longevity of various artistic media, including paintings, sculptures, metalworks, ceramics, and photography. We will delve into the molecular processes underlying various artforms, while gaining insight into the array of materials commonly utilized, such as: metals, precious stones, wood, clay, paints and pigments, and marble. 

As a class, we will embark on a tour of the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art on UO’s campus, where we will apply our chemical knowledge to analyze and appreciate the pieces on display, gaining a deeper understanding of their composition and chemical context. As a culmination of our exploration, students will undertake a hands-on project to create their own watercolor pigments using locally sourced native plants and produce an artwork of their own. 

CH 111 Introduction to Chemical Principles - CoreEd or major satisfying course

This course is designed to introduce students to a limited number of chemistry topics and applied mathematics themes that will enable students to progress to the CH221, 222, 223 General Chemistry course sequence. Students in this course will learn to think like a chemist and will study phenomena in terms of macroscopic, sub-microscopic and symbolic interpretations and representations. In addition to lectures, there will be group work and on-line homework assignments, all of which are designed to build your basic knowledge and scaffold that knowledge to develop the critical thinking and problem solving skills that will lead to success in this and future science courses.

MATH 111Z Precalculus I - CoreEd or major satisfying course

MATH 111Z begins by building familiarity with functions, including notation and the rate of change in a function. Linear functions, including lines of best fit, are discussed. Evaluation, identifying domain and range, and the basics of composition and inversion of functions follow. Quadratic and polynomial functions are introduced along with roots and extrema of quadratic functions. Exponential and logarithmic models are discussed with a focus on applications. Finally, transformations of functions are covered. The course covers content from Chapters 1 through 6 and Chapter 11 from “College Algebra and Trigonometry for the University of Oregon”, by Connally, Hughes-Hallett, Gleason, et al. The course text is a custom edition of “Functions Modeling Change: A Preparation for Calculus”, 4th ed, by Connally, Hughes-Hallett, Gleason, et al. Students using the national version should know that page numbers will not match up between the national and custom versions of the text. College algebra is a calculus preparation course and as such has a strong algebraic focus. Students should primarily take MATH 111Z to fulfill the MATH 241 or MATH 112Z prerequisites, although it does also satisfy one course of the Bachelor of Science mathematics requirement. Students solely seeking credit toward the Bachelor of Science mathematics requirement should consider MATH 105Z, 106, or 107. Prior to taking this class it is strongly recommended that students have recently taken a high school level algebra 2 course or an intermediate algebra course such as MATH 095. Students should expect to take a readiness quiz during the first week of classes to demonstrate preparedness for MATH 111Z.

Meet your FIG Assistant and Instructor!