The Fine Arts and Science


Breakthroughs in art and science rarely happen in isolation. Important changes in society punctuate history during turbulent times. The two examples that are discussed here are the changes around 1876, which was the time of the development of Gibbs' Free Energy and 1911, which was the date of the first performance of Stravinski's Rite of Spring.
Impressionism and Gibbs' Free Energy

The time period around 1850 was characterized by a sense of conformity and relative stagnation in many aspects of society. A building sense of unrest and a revolt against conformity lead to sudden changes in art and science as 1875 approached. Impressionism in the fine arts is a result of the desire for change. Before 1875, nature was often depicted in art, but nature was depicted from a distance as an object or idea separate from human ideas and ideals. The power of nature was depicted, but in a very static sense.
Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot's 1855 painting, La Charette-Souvenir de Marcoussis, is an example of nature as depicted before impressionism.
Camille Pissaro in 1870 showed some of the beginnings of a sudden shift of how painting was done. Less attention is paid to detail and in so doing we are required to consider more the interelationships of the elements of the painting. Works like "Moisson a Montoucault" show that artists were beginning to ask what the purpose of the depiction of objects was.
Pierre-Auguste Renoir's 1876 work, The Swing, shows the emergence of Impressionism. Representation of a scene takes a minor role to the depiction of motion and mood. The depiction of dynamic events and emotion is a hallmark of impressionist works.This same year marks the publication of Willard Gibbs' hallmark work on Free Energy.
Paul Cezanne's 1880 painting, House in Provence, has more dynamic elements and also seeks to depict chaos in nature. Both science and art were looking into the underlying form of nature and not just the surface of phenomina. The concept of disorder or entropy was found in the arts and sciences.

Abstract Art and Quantum Mechanics

The period surrounding 1876 led to a turbulent time that brought many changes in many aspects of society. An even better example of the parallel changes in art and science is found in the time period between 1900 and 1926. The unraveling of the structure of the atom and the discovery of the wave-particle duality of light and matter had a tremendous impact on the course of science and human history. The emergence of quantum mechanics in 1926 was the result of a turbulent time in human history. However, the changes in science were not being played out in isolation. Art and music were going through and equally turbulent and at times almost violent revolution. The hallmark in this time period is the first performance of the ballet "Rite of Spring." The music, written by Igor Stravinsky was greeted with violent emotions. The same can be said for the changes in art.
Pablo Picasso's 1903 portrait, "The Blind Man's Meal," shows only small differences with the legacy of Impressionism and is shown here to highlight the changes caused by the developments in modern art.