Feature Stories Campus Events All Stories

John K. Delaney to Deliver Annual Pamela H. Simpson Lecture Delaney will discuss the scientific imaging of paintings in his Oct. 30 lecture.

Delaney-courtesy-John-Delaney-473x400 John K. Delaney to Deliver Annual Pamela H. Simpson Lecture

John K. Delaney, senior imaging scientist for the National Gallery of Art, will deliver this year’s Pamela H. Simpson Lecture in Art History at Washington and Lee University on Oct. 30 at 5:30 p.m. in Hillel 101.

The lecture, titled “Looking at Paintings Through a Prism,” is free and open to the public.

Delaney joined the National Gallery of Art in 2007, making the Gallery the first art museum to have an imaging scientist on staff. As senior imaging scientist, Delaney is responsible for developing and adapting remote sensing imaging cameras and methods and using those advanced digital imaging methods to obtain new information that could be used for conservation and art historical research. His research focuses on the adaptation of remote sensing techniques for the study of paintings and works on paper, and his imaging methods and techniques have been replicated in the world’s most important museums by scientists he has personally trained during his tenure at the National Gallery of Art.

“John Delaney has changed the global landscape of art conservation and analysis,” said George Bent, Sydney Gause Childress Professor of the Arts at W&L. “His results have informed individual art historical studies and, broadly speaking, the approaches that specialists employ for the examination of cultural heritage monuments. Delaney has collaborated with W&L faculty and his work has directly influenced their own research and that of their students, and his time on campus as the 2023 Pamela Simpson speaker represents only the latest in a lengthy series of ventures with the institution.”

“Looking at Paintings Through a Prism” will highlight Delaney’s scientific approach to the analysis of materials used by European painters, as well as the ways in which the data he collects has been used by art historians to support their archival and stylistic research. The presentation will focus on Delaney’s own highly publicized and deeply influential work, exploring the painting stages of Leonardo da Vinci’s portrait of “Ginevra de’ Benci” (c. 1474-78), the original appearance of Giovanni Bellini’s “Feast of the Gods” (c. 1514-29) before it was reworked, and the working methods detected in Johannes Vermeer’s “Girl with the Red Hat” (c. 1669). Delaney argues that questions of cultural importance can be resolved through collaborative relationships between humanists and scientists, with each bringing their expertise to the table while simultaneously recognizing the limits of their own abilities.

Delaney received his bachelor’s degree from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute and his doctorate from The Rockefeller University. He completed postdoctoral studies at the University of Arizona and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He has published more than 75 papers in the areas of imaging and spectroscopy and is an associate editor of Heritage Science and an associate editor of Science Advances.

The Pamela H. Simpson Endowment for Art, established in 2011, is a permanently endowed fund to support the hosting of distinguished academic and professional visitors to campus to work directly with students and faculty in W&L’s Department of Art and Art History. Simpson served on the W&L faculty for 38 years; she was the first female tenure-track professor at the university and the first female professor to receive an endowed chair at W&L.