Exploring the Invisible: Art, Science, and the Spiritual

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This sumptuous and stunningly illustrated book shows through words and images how directly, profoundly, and indisputably modern science has transformed modern art.

Beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, a strange and exciting new world came into focus—a world of microorganisms in myriad shapes and colors, prehistoric fossils, bizarre undersea creatures, spectrums of light and sound, molecules of water, and atomic particles. Exploring the Invisible reveals that the world beyond...

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Princeton, NJ 2002 Hard cover New in new dust jacket. In original unopened shrinkwrap. Ship in sturdy box with bubble wrap. Sewn binding. Cloth over boards. 344 p. Contains: ... Illustrations. Audience: General/trade. Read more Show Less

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Overview

This sumptuous and stunningly illustrated book shows through words and images how directly, profoundly, and indisputably modern science has transformed modern art.

Beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, a strange and exciting new world came into focus—a world of microorganisms in myriad shapes and colors, prehistoric fossils, bizarre undersea creatures, spectrums of light and sound, molecules of water, and atomic particles. Exploring the Invisible reveals that the world beyond the naked eye—made visible by advances in science—has been a major inspiration for artists ever since, influencing the subjects they choose as well as their techniques and modes of representation.

Lynn Gamwell traces the evolution of abstract art through several waves, beginning with Romanticism. She shows how new windows into telescopic and microscopic realms—combined with the growing explanatory importance of mathematics and new definitions of beauty derived from science—broadly and profoundly influenced Western art. Art increasingly reflected our more complex understanding of reality through increasing abstraction. For example, a German physiologist's famous demonstration that color is not in the world but in the mind influenced Monet's revolutionary painting with light. As the first wave of enthusiasm for science crested, abstract art emerged in Brussels and Munich. By 1914, it could be found from Moscow to Paris.

Throughout the book are beautiful images from both science and art—some well known, others rare—that reveal the scientific sources mined by Impressionist and Symbolist painters, Art Nouveau sculptors and architects, Cubists, and othernineteenth- and twentieth-century artists.

With a foreword by astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson, Exploring the Invisible appears in an age when both artists and scientists are exploring the deepest meanings of life, consciousness, and the universe.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This beautifully illustrated volume is a surprising synthesis of two seemingly disparate cultures: a revealing look at more than a century of science and the art it has influenced. Gamwell, curator of the Gallery of Art and Science at the New York Academy of Sciences, brings her rare and expansive view of creativity to bear on the impulses common to both pursuits. Opening with a consideration of Romanticism, illustrated by Caspar David Friedrich's lonely "Wanderer above a Sea of Fog," and J.M.W Turner's paintings of light and darkness, Gamwell gently tugs readers along on a tour of the Western mind. She sees Darwinism as the beginning of a "pursuit of the absolute" destined to obsess both scientists and artists. From there, Gamwell tracks the explosive rise of the scientific worldview with hundreds of artworks from the major movements, pieces that reflect a fascination with exploration and discovery, as well as mixed feelings about technological advancement. While the influence of science is easier to see in Wassily Kandinsky's amoeba-like forms or Alexander Calder's constellation mobiles than it is in Jackson Pollock's energetic splashes, the author draws careful lines from science to painting and sculpture, allowing even art (or science) novices to appreciate her argument. Ultimately, Gamwell argues for the direct relationship between scientific knowledge and abstract art, and after such an eloquent and visually exciting journey, the link is perfectly clear. 156 color and 208 b&w illustrations. (Nov.) Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
The director of the art museum at SUNY at Binghampton and adjunct science professor at the School of Visual Arts, Gamwell attempts to enumerate what we've suspected all along: art, science, and religion are entwined in a dance, each affecting the others. Text and images flow nicely from epoch to epoch, as Gamwell illustrates the zeitgeists that created some of the world's great ideas. One of the first images in the book is a painting by Caspar David Friedrich, Wanderer Above a Sea of Fog, which perfectly illustrates the essence of life on the brink of the modern scientific era. From there, the reader moves through various art movements and scientific discoveries, culminating in (of course) an image of a cone nebula from the Hubble Space Telescope. Following the text are notes, a chronology of events, a broad list of suggestions for further reading, and a functional index. Small problems of perception occur, such as listing the diagnosis of anorexia nervosa in the "spiritual" realm, and there is a lack of spiritual emphasis in general; however, these issues do not detract from the book as a whole. Recommended for academic and larger public libraries.-Nadine Dalton Speidel, Cuyahoga Cty. P.L., Parma, OH Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691089720
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 9/30/2002
  • Pages: 344
  • Product dimensions: 9.82 (w) x 11.24 (h) x 1.07 (d)

Meet the Author

Lynn Gamwell is Director of the Art Museum at Binghamton University; Curator of the Gallery of Art and Science at the New York Academy of Sciences; and Adjunct Professor of Science at the School of Visual Arts, New York. She is the coauthor of "Dreams 1900-2000: Art, Science, and the Unconscious Mind" and "Madness in America: Cultural and Medical Perceptions of Mental Illness Before 1914". Neil deGrasse Tyson is Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History. His books include "The Sky Is Not the Limit" and "One Universe".

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Table of Contents

Foreword : science as the artist's muse 6
1 Art in pursuit of the absolute : Romanticism 13
2 Adopting a scientific worldview 33
3 The French art of observation : a cool rejection of Darwin 57
4 German and Russian art of the absolute : a warm embrace of Darwin 93
5 Loving and loathing science at the Fin de Siecle 111
6 Looking inward : art and the human mind 129
7 Wordless music and abstract art 149
8 The culmination of Newton's clockwork universe 163
9 Einstein's space-time universe 195
10 Abstract art with a cosmic perspective 207
11 Surrealist science 243
12 The atomic sublime 259
13 The disunity or nature : postmodern art, science, and the spiritual 281
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