Exploring the Invisible: Art, Science, and the Spiritual

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9780691121123: Exploring the Invisible: Art, Science, and the Spiritual


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 other nineteenth- 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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"Modern science since Darwin and Einstein has revolutionized our understanding of mind and cosmos, presenting a world as strange and paradoxical as it is wonderful, and challenging deeply held beliefs and values. That visual artists would be influenced by this still-continuing transformation is not surprising. Lynn Gamwell traces this response through the twists and turns of modern and postmodern art and aesthetics, providing fresh and interesting interpretations, and a treasury of visual images, to stimulate the thinking of both scientist and artist."--Torsten N. Wiesel, neuroscientist and Nobel Laureate


"This pathbreaking study is daring, innovative, and above all, clearly written. I suspect it will be the one book students will be able to consult in order to correlate what are usually considered the almost antagonistic fields of science and art; and I suspect, too, that thanks to its amazingly readable, lucid style, it will find its way into the libraries of post-collegiate readers. Nobody before has dared to tackle this huge topic. Art historians don't know enough about science; scientists don't know enough about art. Miraculously, probably uniquely, Lynn Gamwell seems equally at home in both areas."--Robert Rosenblum, New York University


"Exploring the Invisible is very stimulating and accessible to the nonexpert (in science or art). As a scientist, I found it enjoyable and highly informative. It provides many new and exciting insights. Dr. Gamwell receives my admiration for this fine connection between art and science."--Arthur Greenberg, University of New Hampshire


About 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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