October 11, 2016–February 12, 2017GETTY RESEARCH INSTITUTE
Long shrouded in secrecy, alchemy is now recognized as the ancestor of modern chemistry. Alchemists were notorious for attempting to make synthetic gold, but their goals were far more ambitious: to transform and bend nature to the will of an industrious human imagination. Inventions born from alchemical laboratories include metal alloys for sculpture and ornament, oil paints, effects in glassmaking, and even the chemical baths of photography. The mysterious art of alchemy transformed visual culture from antiquity to the Industrial Age, and its legacy still permeates the world we make today.