This article deals in particular with the influences of electromagnetic theory (and its findings) on modern art, especially in the second half of the ... History - Painting - Photography - Digital art - art - electromagnetic waves - image processing - electromagnetic theory - Young-Helmholtz-Maxwell theory - color photography - image-processing systems - digital art - History - electromagnetic theory - art
Giuseppe Pelosi University of Florence Via C. Lombroso 6/17 1-50134 Florence, Italy Tel: 055-4796-759 Fax: 055-4796-767 E-mail: [email protected]@ieee.org
Introduction In this issue of the magazine, the Historical comer hosts a paper by Prof. Yilmaz, from Ankara University. The paper outlines some of the influences science had on the arts. In particular, it discusses how painting changed due to the vision theories formulated by the fathers of electromagnetism and, also, due to technological advances such as photography.
Influences of Electromagnetic Theory on Modern Art Asim Egemen Yilmaz Ankara University Department of Electronics Engineering 06100 Tandogan, Ankara, Turkey Tel: + 90 312 203 3500; Fax: + 90 312 212 5480; E-mail: [email protected];[email protected] Keywords: History; electromagnetic theory; art
he relationship of art, science, and even philosophy has been an area of interest for many researchers of various disciplines so far. This has yielded numerous books and articles. A detailed bibliographic work, listing many articles on this subject before 1985, was given by Topper and Holloway . As can be seen in these sources, each researcher handles the topic with different aspects. The opinion of the majority is that art and science are siblings. On the other hand, the opponents (e.g., Nietzsche and his followers) claim that these are contradictory cultures, and any similarities between them are coincidental [2, 3].
development has triggered a movement in art, and vice versa. Moreover, there have been some cases where the dominant philosophical thought of an era has synchronously led parallel/similar concepts in art and science. For example, the idea of "infinite universe" inspired Baroque painting (Absolutism and Subjective Realism) and music (Music of Thoroughbass) in art, along with analytic geometry in science, during the 17th century . Another example can be given from the early 20th century, where there was a tendency to construct a self-sufficient system with its own laws. In such an atmosphere, Wittgenstein' s philosophical thought and the Vienna Circle, Stein's poetry, Schonberg's 12-tone music, Formalist Criticism, and Cubism evolved in parallel at the same time .
Independently from their similarities and conflicts, the artscience relationship dates back to ancient times, and this relationship went to extremes during the High Renaissance. Since then, there have been many cases where a scientific or a technological
This article deals in particular with the influences of electromagnetic theory (and its findings) on modem art, especially in the second half of the 18th century.
IEEE Antennas and Propagation Magazine, Vol. 51, No.1, February 2009
Figure 1. Claude Monet's 1872 but beyond-its-time painting entitled "Impression, Soleil Levant" .
Figure 3a. Georges Seurat's 1884-1886 "A Sunday on La Grande Jatte," which is the trademark of the Pointillist movement .
Figure 3b. Pictorial description of the Pointillist technique (1887, "Man and Woman on the Street" by Charles Theophile Angrand, one of the Pointillist painters) .
Figure 2. An application of the "simultaneous contrast" concept by using and blending tones of red and green, by PierreAuguste Renoir, one of the leading Impressionists (1881, "On the Terrace") .
IEEE Antennas and Propagation MagaZine, Vol. 51, No.1, February 2009
2. The Young-Helmholtz-Maxwell Theory of Vision The mechanism of "visual perception" has been a popular subject of discussion throughout history. The curiosity of humanity about this topic started in ancient Greece. Chronologically, various philosophers, including Pythagoras, Empedocles, Democritus, Aristotle, Euclid, and Ptolemy, tried to come up with logical explanations about the propagation of light and the mechanism of sight. Two major theories on vision prevailed: the emission theory (supported by Euclid and Ptolemy, who believed that sight results from rays of light emitted by the eye); and the intromission theory (supported by Aristotle and his followers, who believed that sight is due to some unexplained physical forms, emitted by an object and entering the eye) . In the 11th century, Persian!Arab scientist Ibn al-Haytham (also known by his Latinized name, "Alhazen," and today regarded as the father of modem physical optics due to his findings) performed the first empirical studies in optics. He determined that the process of vision consists of rays of light proceeding to the eye from each point on an object . Although Ibn al-Haytham's Kitab al-Manazir (Book of Optics) was translated into Latin in the 12th century, it did not achieve the popularity it deserved among the Western philosophers and scientists until its 1572 translation. (Today, it has been regarded as one of the most influential books in the history of science and philosophy, not only for its evidence in optics, but also due to Ibn al-Haytham's scientific method and rational skepticism ).
The discussion about perception (i.e., "the color and form in the world" versus "the form and the color in the mind") was revisited by Descartes in his essay "The World," or "Essay on Light," dated 1633. There, Descartes claimed that the perception and formation of a color should be created in one's mind, and it should be personal, even though he could not put forth any evidence to support his idea . In 1690, British philosopher Locke tried to formulate a description of vision "as light corpuscles striking the retina," in his "Essay Concerning Human Understanding" . Thomas Young, who believed that there should be "red, blue, and yellow" receptors in the eyes of mammals, experimentally determined that light is a wave. Later, Helmholtz determined that the human eye has three receptors, "red (R), green (G), and blue (B)," and that Young's theory was more or less true. Between 1856 and 1867, Helmholtz documented all his findings in three volumes of Handbook of Physiological Optics, and the French translation of that book was published in 1867 . The evidence of Young and Helmholtz not only explained the mechanism of "color blindness," but also influenced the RGB color system that is still being used in various applications in different forms. The year 1839 witnessed the invention of photography. This evolved from the idea of using chemicals with different sensitivities to light, so that an image can be projected and reproduced on a plane covered with such chemicals. Starting from this idea, and using the results obtained by Young and Helmholtz, James Clerk Maxwell claimed that "a color photograph could be produced by recording a scene with chemicals sensitive to red, green, and blue light; then superimposing the three monochrome images" [9, 11]. In 1861, he demonstrated to an interested audience the real-time mechanical production of a color image of a colorful Scottish tartan ribbon at the British Academy of Science. As a conclusion to this section, the following arguments can be stated: 204
As seen above, by direct application of the outcome of the Young-Helmholtz-Maxwell "theory of vision," color photography was invented. In addition, the RGB color system evolved, depending on this theory.
The Young-Helmholtz-Maxwell "theory of vision" drastically replaced the traditional belief of "the form and color being in the world" with its more-modem and the correct version as "the form and color being in the mind." In other words, the idea of "perception" and the sense and definition of the term "reality" had to be reconsidered and revisited during the rest of 19th century, as well as in the following century. As will be seen in the following section, these facts influenced Impressionist painting, which could be considered to be the revolution yielding modem art.
3. The Breaking Point in Art In 1872, French painter Claude Monet exhibited his work "Impression, Solei! Levant" ("Impression, Sunrise") (Figure 1), which yielded many discussions and mostly negative criticism. The painting was criticized as being as if "a sketch," "an unfinished painting," and "a drawing by a 7-year-old kid." The term "Impressionist" (derived from the title of the painting) was satirically used in order to attack Monet, his fellows, and their followers .
In fact, Monet's idea of producing such paintings was due to the changing senses of perception and reality. Especially after the invention and diffusion of photography, painters started to discuss "the duty of the painting and the painter." Since exact one-to-one projection of images in the world (in other words, the "mechanical objectivity" of photography as it was advertised in those days ) could already be done by photography, most artists decided that the mission of painting could/should be something else.
Under these circumstances, Monet developed the technique that yielded Impressionism. He tried to forget what the objects looked like in reality, and painted only his own instant perceptions. He continued to put the brush strokes on the painting until the image on the canvas gave him a "naive impression" of the scene [5, 15]. His initial departure points were these: the YoungHelmholtz-Maxwell theory of vision had proven that "the color and the fonn were in the mind, not in the world;" and a one-to-one projection of a given scene (even in colored format, as demonstrated by Maxwell) could already be done by a photograph artist; hence, as a painter, Monet should have applied something different and novel. These arguments were also explicitly declared by Georges Clemenceau (French journalist, writer and politician, who was a close friend of Monet), who concluded his 1929 monograph entitled "Claude Monet, Les Nymphes" with the following phrase: "Impressionism was, at least in principle, dependent upon electromagnetic theory" .
In addition, the following remarks should also be made about the other scientific developments that had an effect on the birth of Impressionism: During the Second Empire Era (namely, the 1850s and 1860s) in France, bourgeois wealth and education expanded tremendously. There was a great increase in interest in scientific publications, especially after the loss of the Franco-Prussian War in 1871, which IEEE Antennas and Propagation Magazine, Vol. 51, No.1, February 2009
increased the emphasis on education among French citizens as an alternative method to strengthen the nation. In that period, there were more than a dozen science-fiction book series (collected under the series title "Bibliotheque des Marveilles," which published 126 volumes between 1864 and 1895), more than twenty annual science magazines, and more than six weekly/monthly science magazines, most of which were accessible and affordable by a majority of the society . The 19th century witnessed many scientific and technological developments. In such an atmosphere, most young artists (especially the Impressionists) were regularly purchasing scientific publications and closely following recent developments. On the other hand, some scientists of this period were deeply interested in art: Helmholtz was one of these. The French chemist Michel Eugene Chevreul was another. In 1839, with the encouragement and suggestions of his very close friend, Andre-Marie Ampere, he wrote a book entitled De la Loi du Contraste Simultane des Couleurs (On the Law ofSimultaneous Contrast ofColors). This book was the most widely used color manual in the 19th century (by the painters, especially the impressionists) . The term "simultaneous contrast" referred to the tendency of the eye to see the fugitive components of an adjacent hue in a color . It added "aliveness" and "movement" to a painting, which was one of the characteristics of the Impressionist paintings. Actually, "simultaneous contrast" became one of the most-significant methods applied by the Impressionists, and later by the PostImpressionists (Figure 2). In the 1880s, the experimental studies of the French painter Georges Seurat and his fellows - who were following the manuals of the American physicist, Ogden Nicholas Rood - yielded the movement popularly known as Pointillism (also known as NeoImpressionism or Divisionism). Rood's idea was as follows: "placing a quantity of small dots of two colors very near to each other allows them to be blended by the eye placed at the proper distance" [9, 17]. For example, Seurat and his fellows used many yellow and blue points (or dots: that is why the movement is called Pointillism) of about 0.4 nun radii in order to represent a green region. This really caused an observer a couple of meters away from the painting to see a green region. Seurat's paintings, such as "A Sunday on La Grande Jatte" and "Le Chahut," are considered to be the most impressive examples of this movement. Moreover, it should be emphasized that Seurat and his followers were highly impressed by Helmholtz's and Maxwell's findings. They frequently performed laboratory experiments on the construction of a specific color by means of other colors . (For Seurat's "A Sunday on La Grande Jatte," please see Figure 3a, and for the pictorial description of the technique, please see Figure 3b).
4. Conclusion The Young-Helmholtz-Maxwell theory of vision not only changed the understanding of the terms "perception," "reality," and the philosophical thoughts related to these terms. This theory also influenced Impressionism, which is the most radical and revolutionary movement in the history of painting, yielding modem art. In addition, the theory directly yielded another important artistic movement, Pointillism. It also yielded color photography, as well IEEE Antennas and Propagation Magazine, Vol. 51, No.1, February 2009
as the RGB system, which is one of the fundamental concepts in modem image-processing systems and digital art.
5. References 1. D. R. Topper and J. H. Holloway, "Interrelationships of the Arts, Sciences and Technology: A Bibliographic Up-Date," Leonardo, 18,3, 1985,pp. 197-200. 2. C. P. Snow, The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1959. 3. C. P. Snow, Two Cultures: And a Second Look, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1963. 4. O. Spengler, "Meaning of Numbers," The World of Mathematics, 4, 1956, pp. 2320. 5. J. A. Richardson, Modern Art and Scientific Thought, Urbana and Chicago, University of Illinois Press, 1971. 6. B. Clegg, Light Years: An Exploration of Mankind's Enduring Fascination with Light, London, Piatkus, 2001. 7. I. Howard, "Alhazen's Neglected Discoveries of Visual Phenomena," Perception, 25, 1996, pp. 1203-1217. 8. B. Steffens, Ibn al-Haytham: First Scientist, Greensboro, NC, Morgan Reynolds Publishing, 2006. 9. L. Gamwell, Exploring the Invisible: Art, Science & the Spiritual, Princeton and Oxford, Princeton University Press, 2002. 10. D. Cahan, Hermann von Helmholtz and the Foundations of Nineteenth-Century Science, Berkeley, CA, University of California Press, 1993. 11. G. Pelosi, "James Clerk Maxwell: His Journey to Italy; and the First Color Photograph," IEEE Antennas and Propagation Magazine, 50, 1, February 2008, pp. 240-243. 12. Image taken from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ File:Claude_Monet,_Impression,_soleil_Ievant,_1872.jpg. 13. J. Anderson, Monet, New York, Barnes & Noble Books, 2002. 14. J. Tresch, "The Daguerreotype's First Frame: Franyois Arago's Moral Economy of Instruments," Studies in History and Philosophy ofScience, 38, 2007, pp. 445-476. 15. L. C. Perry, "Reminiscences of Claude Monet from 1889 to 1909," American Magazine ofArt, 18,3,1927, pp. 120. 16. Image taken from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ File:Pierre-Auguste_Renoir_007.jpg. 17. P. Pool, Impressionism, London, Thames and Hudson, 1991. 18. Image taken from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ File:Georges_Seurat_-_Un_dimanche_apr%C3%A8smidi_%C3%AO_I%27%C3%8Ele_de_la_Grande_Jatte.jpg. 19. High and low resolution images taken from Wikipedia and edited: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Charles_Th%C3%A90phile_Ang rand_00 l.jpg. @ 205