We are way past that generation when people tried to establish a clear demarcation between science and arts. Today, more than ever, the interconnectedness between science and arts is strongly felt in every wake of life. We live in a world where photography, a byproduct of scientific discoveries, is claiming the world as a prominent art form. We are a generation which is interested in knowing the physics behind the making of ice creams which we all love. With fields like gastronomy and photography gaining significance, it’s impossible to deny how arts and science have come together to form a space with infinite scope for innovation and creativity. This acceptance might have come late or in some cases might be still on its way but this idea has been spreading its wings since a long time. Did you know that Samuel Morse (1791-1872), the man credited with the invention of Morse Code was also an aspiring painter? Also, were you aware of the artistic inclinations of the world-renowned Botanist Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717)? And while we are on the topic there is one name which deserves special mention and that is none other than Leonardo Da Vinci (1452-1519), the creator of masterpieces like Mona Lisa and The Last Supper. His love for arts and science is clear from his numerous endeavours as a painter, scientist, engineer and theorist. Now, to get a clearer picture of this organic connection between science and arts, let us look at the times when science became the ground for artistic innovation and explore 6 works of art inspired by science.
- Gala Contemplating the Mediterranean, Salvador Dali
If you have an eye for art, the Spanish Surrealist painter Dali must be a known name to you. Being one of the pioneers of the Surrealist movement, Dali’s work reflected ideas of optical illusions and double images. Following on his inclinations towards science, the innovations witnessed in the 20th century scientific world found an honourable mention in several of his works. One painting which brought together the world of arts and science was Dali’s Gala Contemplating the Mediterranean, which at twenty meters becomes the portrait of Abraham Lincoln. Inspired by an article titled ‘The Recognition of Faces’, published in the Scientific American magazine, this particular artwork of Dali brings together the ideas of sensory recognition, spatial frequencies, optical illusions and photo-mosaic to create a masterpiece which gathered interest in both the world of arts and science.
- Vitruvian Man, Leonardo Da Vinci
Based on the works of Roman architect Vitruvius, Leonardo Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, also known as The Proportions of the Human Body According to Vitruvius, is symbolic of the increased interest in human anatomy, mathematics and art during the Renaissance period. In Vitruvian Man, Vinci created a piece of art, combining theories related to anatomical proportions including measurements and ratios and mathematical figures to explore the idea of the geometry of perfect proportions. This artwork remains to be an interesting example of how diverse fields of science, architecture, mathematics and art came together during the period of Italian Renaissance.
- Drawings of Brain, Santiago Ramón Y Cajal
Popularly known as the Father of Neuroscience, Santiago Ramón Y Cajal was a scientist who took forward his passion for art through his scientific discoveries. He discovered the intricate structure of the human brain and this discovery became the subject matter for his numerous art pieces. What he discovered using the application of his scientific knowledge found representation in the form of detailed drawings of the internal complexities of the human brain. Cajal always had an inclination towards arts but owing to his father’s persuasion had to take up medicine but interestingly enough, he found a way to connect himself to the world of science by walking on the path of science.
- The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass), Marcel Duchamp
The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even is a modern piece of art created by Marcel Duchamp using lead wire, lead foil, dust and varnish to create images on two glass panes. Here, what Duchamp did was express his vision of man, women and love in the language borrowed from geometrical structures of Industrial Design. This particular 9 feet tall work of art appears to be a blueprint of a machine but embodied within it is Duchamp’s perception of the world around. This choice of Duchamp to incorporate machine like figures instead of more anatomical ones could be reflective of the increased mechanisation that the world underwent during his time. This is one of the finest examples of the arts-science experiment Duchamp conducted in his lifetime.
- A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, Georges Seurat
When one talks about arts being inspired by science, the name of Georges Seurat is meant to arise. His works are known for his experimentation with the colour theories put forward by scholars like Michel Eugène Chevreul and Ogden Rood. Instead of lines or standard brushstrokes, in Seurat’s paintings you will find a collection of dots arranged into different figures and shapes, giving the impression of a single hue, as used in A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte This style of painting later came to be known as Divisionism or Pointillism and it came into being considering the optical theories and the idea of perception put forth by different colour theorists. According to these theories, colours stood out when used as dots instead of brushstrokes and if you look at it practically, following this idea, Seurat’s work did stand out. This is how scientific theories bring in the possibility of artistic innovations.
- Roden Crater, James Turrell
Located in the Painted Desert region of Northern Arizona, Roden Crater is a massive work of art created by James Turrell in a real volcanic cinder cone. From a natural landscape to an engineered space, Roden Crater is set to be an architectural marvel within which one could experience cycles of geologic and celestial time through an interplay of lights. This piece of art, which will be open to the public in 2024, is a product of artist James Turrell’s lifelong engagement with the fields of visual and psychological perception. Looking at the images of Roden Crater, which is under construction today, it is nothing less than a marvel and a beautiful example of things which could come into being through an interaction of arts and science.
These were some examples which show how often science lays the groundwork for artistic innovation and how the interaction between science and arts leads to the creation of never seen before masterpieces. Several contemporary artists like Jen stark, Luke Jerram, Susan Aldworth and Fabian Oefner have been following the footsteps of their predecessors and are exploring this potential and their works are indeed a treat for minds with a keen interest for both science and arts.