During the 1500’s art started to drift out of the churches, beginning with the Renaissance and then continuing on to the Baroque and Rococo periods. At the same time that art was experiencing a reforming the knowledge and exploration that was happening in science started to emerge as a something that was more widely recognized and understood. Additionally many artist of these times were fascinated with the human form and with the way that machines worked. This caused a merger between art and science that has continued on to this day.
The Renaissance Period
I don’t think that it is possible to talk about the Renaissance or about the relationship between art and science without talking about the work of Leonardo da Vinci. Da Vinci is considered a true Renaissance man, while he was very skilled in regards to painting and sculpting he was also a very talented inventor and researcher in regards to the movements of animals and the human body.
One of Leonardo da Vinci’s most highly regarded piece of work that blends his love of art and his understanding of science is The Vitruvian Man. The Vitruvian Man is a drawing of a man in two superimposed images. The drawing is surrounded by notes made by Leonardo da Vinci based on the work of Virtruvius. The Vitruvian Man is often referred to as the Canon of Proportions and is still used to this day by artist when they are first learning about proportions.
With the Vitruvian Man Leonardo strived to explain the human body in a way that related to science but also in a way the related to art. He breaks down the human for into being in relation to each other, eight heads equal height, a palm is four fingers, a foot is four palms, etc. In that way he was able to explore the interconnectedness of art and science.
The Baroque Period
Great discoveries were made during the Baroque period in regards to science and the relationship of the earth to the stars. In addition many scientist and artist started to explore time and its relationship to the world around us. Jacob van Ruisdael is able to demonstrate the artist struggle to depict a moment in time with his painting The Waterfall. In the painting Ruisdael captures running water. That is being hit against rocks and moving in multiple directions. Because of the disturbance of the water the colors of the water is vast. Ruisdael was also very well known for painting cloudy skys and this painting is no exception. The dark sky above the water fall gives a feeling of impending doom and chaos that is mirrored in the turbulence of the water.
Understanding the way water moves and exploring that through is painting allows Ruisdael to demonstrate life sciences and to explore the role that time and weather have in regards to the objects and world around us.
The Rococo Period
During the Rococo period we experienced the age of enlightenment while prior to this time, science was a priority, the advances that were made during this time are immeasurable. One of the best examples of a piece of art that demonstrated this is a painting by Joseph Wright called A Philosopher Giving a Lecture at the Orrery. The painting shows a Philosopher demonstrating an orrery which is a mechanical model of the solar system. Within the paining you are able to see the wonder and awe that science has started to bring to all people of all ages as people of many age groups are surrounding the orrery. The artist had to have a good understanding and interest in art to even be able to create this piece in addition I feel that his ability to capture multiple emotions and thoughts on the faces of the people that are present at the lecture give insight to the progress of understand in regards to our planets place in the solar system.
In conclusion it is quite interesting to see that in such a short period of time the progress of not only the colors and styles of the art but also in the knowledge progression of science and understanding of the world around us. From the beginning with Leonardo to and trying to understand man to Ruisdael trying to understand our world to Wright trying to understand the things outside of our world art has the wonderful ability to capture our imagination and our capabilities.
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