The Science of Art: Optical Themes in Western Art from Brunelleschi to Seurat

The Science of Art: Optical Themes in Western Art from Brunelleschi to Seurat

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The Science of Art: Optical Themes in Western Art from Brunelleschi to Seurat by Martin Kemp




In this pathbreaking and richly illustrated book, Martin Kemp examines the major optically oriented examples of artistic theory and practice from Brunelleschi’s invention of perspective and its exploitation by Leonardo and Durer to the beginnings of photography. In a discussion of color theory, Kemp traces two main traditions of color science: the Aristotelian tradition of primary colors and Newton’s prismatic theory that influenced Runge, Turner, and Seurat. His monumental book not only adds to our understanding of a large group of individual works of art but also provides valuable information for all those interested in the interaction between science and art.


"This beautifully made volume . . . shows us the unity of the visual study of nature—the exalted mutual task of Renaissance science and art."—Scientific American

"[A] wonderful book. . . . Martin Kemp has convincingly demonstrated that even the most diverse styles of Western art from the Renaissance to modern times remained ever enthralled by scientific optics. . . . [A] handsome volume."—Samuel Y. Edgerton, American Scientist

"An extraordinarily ambitious, even daring, enterprise. . . . The book leaves us in no doubt about its author’s expertise in both fields. It includes the most comprehensive account of the development of perspective theory and practice I know."—Thomas Puttfarken, Times Higher Education Supplement

"Kemp has performed a valuable service. . . . His style is lucid and he emerges as an honest broker who judiciously weighs the historical evidence. He has an impressive command of the literature of both art and optical science across much of Europe and over a span of four centuries. . . . Kemp’s thesis is amply illustrated with several hundred plates, including many of his own line drawings. . . . The reader is led gently through the history of art and the details of optical science to appreciate their interrelationship."—Geoffrey Cantor, Oxford Art Journal

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780300052411
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publication date: 04/28/1992
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 383
Product dimensions: 9.50(w) x 11.00(h) x (d)

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Science of Art: Optical Themes in Western Art from Brunelleschi to Seurat 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
A_Sloan More than 1 year ago
The Marriage of Science and Art In "The Science of Art", Martin Kemp (an emeritus professor of history of art at University of Oxford who is considered one of the world's leading experts on the art of Leonardo da Vinci and visualization in art and science) details the use of geometrical science of perspective and physical science of color in painting within the time period 1400-1800. In this time, the central goal of artists and theorists was the imitation of nature based on scientific principles. This book is academic and dry as well as beautiful and complex. I was already quite familiar with perspective, as I finished The Painter's Secret Geometry recently, so I skimmed until section two on mechanical devises. Christopher Wren's perspective machine, the Claude glass, and Pierre Edouard Frer's Zograscope fascinated me. Although it felt a bit out of place, section three is interesting for its examination of color before and after Newton. This is an important book that will endure because its makes us aware in a new way of the continuity, complexity, and ultimately the beauty of the European ideals that have linked art and science since the Renaissance and given Western culture its unique place in history.