18th Century Scientific Advancements

1347 Words 6 Pages
The 15th – 18th centuries CE were a period of great change in Europe in particular after a millennium of relative stagnation. Scientific advancements, cultural enlightenment and socio-economic developments combined to create new artistic opportunities and to influence the thinking and directions of artists.
In this essay I will initially provide a brief overview of scientific advancements during this time, and then relate these and the overall societal context to artistic progression. Context: Science in the 15th – 18th centuries
Science and objective thinking over the 15th to the 18th centuries increasingly escaped the constricting grip that religion had held. This is perfectly highlighted in the words of Galileo Galilei:
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Relationship between the arts and science
Scientific breakthroughs and the proliferation of scientific thinking over this period had a number of impacts on the arts. I will categorise the most important of these as the confluence of art and science; adoption of new artistic methods; reference to scientific subject matter; and the proliferation of art and the preservation of knowledge. While there were also advances in other forms of the arts, such as music and literature, I will focus on painting.
The confluence of art and science
Firstly, there were some important person-centred relationships between the arts and science. The most obvious example is Leonardo da Vinci, who excelled across a number of fields and whose sketches of scientific models and anatomy are art in their own right. His Sketch of Uterus with Foetus (circa 1512), shown at right, is an example. Da Vinci explored multiple pathways towards enlightenment, and his extensive exploration of human anatomy is thought to have been intended to help him depict the human body more accurately (Gilson,
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Albrecht Pfister
The Pleasures of Education (1777, Rococo). Louis Marin Bonnet

Reference to scientific subject matter
Another relationship between science and art during this period was the inclusion of scientific subject matter in paintings. Some examples include:
• Dürer’s inclusion of a mathematical construct - a magic square - in his engraving "Melencolia I" (on the wall, below the bell) (Mastin, 2010). A magic square contains integers with the sum of the numbers being the same in each row, column, and main diagonal.
Melencolia I (1514, Renaissance). Albrecht Dürer
• Vermeer’s The Astronomer explicitly links science and art. Cartography and astronomy are depicted alongside fine arts such as the painting on the wall and the Middle Eastern carpet on the table (Eskridge, n.d.). The Astronomer (circa 1668, Baroque). Johannes Vermeer

The proliferation of art and the preservation of knowledge
The final aspect of the relationship between science and art in the 15th – 18th centuries that I will draw attention to is how science and technology enabled the proliferation of art. The development of the printing press was a huge step forward for art. Printing made art accessible to the masses at lower costs, and stimulated the acceptability of more secular content. Importantly, printing enabled the more rapid and reliable diffusion of knowledge about art, as well as its preservation. While the methods of classicism were largely lost for a thousand year,

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