In this course we explore the intersections of art and science in medieval, modern, and contemporary history. Our aim is twofold. First, to explore the close interaction between these two fields, and the way in which they have shaped each other through the ages. Second, to focus our attention on specific instances of art/science interaction, using them as prisms through which one can reach a fuller understanding of major historical transformations. We shall focus on figures who worked at the threshold between art and science, and contributed to reshape profoundly the discourse between and within them. We shall study this junction as a key site of innovation and change. We shall also engage with the question of creativity, and its meaning within the two fields. How do artists and scientists conceive new ideas? Drawing, scribbling, and sketching have long been crucial tools for both artists and scientists. Now as in the past, artists look at experimental and laboratory practices as sources of inspiration, while scientists routinely mobilize the languages of art to illustrate and represent new knowledge. The course takes the form of an overview that spans from the awakening of European culture through the reception of new knowledge from the Near East to the most recent encounters between artistic and scientific practice in the 21st century. Among the topics that will be discussed: medieval illuminated manuscripts of natural philosophy, the study of light and luminous phenomena such as the rainbow, and the making and use of astrolabes. Leonardo will be the pivotal Renaissance figure, while the rise of modern science and technology will lead us into the contemporary experience of the art/science interaction, up to the current transformation of both fields through computing and digital media.
This course is open to all, but lower-division students should realize that it requires a higher level of thinking and writing than most lower-divison courses.