Art, Science, and the Spiritual (HSD-4026-R1) Fall 2019

Art, Science, and the Spiritual (HSD-4026-R1) Fall 2019


Instructor: Dr. Lynn Gamwell

Course content: This course surveys the rise of a scientific worldview and its impact on the visual arts.

Text: The reading materials for your class are in a “coursepack” which is on sale at the Baruch College Bookstore, 55 Lexington Ave. (24th-25th). Take the name and number of the course with you to the store. The coursepack is a digital version of the book, Exploring the Invisible: Art, Science, and the Spiritual by Lynn Gamwell (Princeton University Press, 2002). For further reading see the books listed at the back of the text under “Suggested Reading.”

This classroom is an e-free zone: laptops, iPads, cell phones, etc. cannot be use. For scientific research on how your ability to learn is affected by how you listen, read and take notes, go here:

You Are How You Read

Sept. 5 – Introduction to the Enlightenment and 19th-century Biology

Sept. 12 – homework: Chapter 1: Art in Pursuit of the Absolute

Sept. 19 – homework: Chapter 2: Adopting a Scientific Worldview

Sept. 26 – homework: Chapter 3: French Art of Observation

Oct. 3 – homework: Chapter 4: German and Russian Art of the Absolute

Oct. 10 – homework: Chapter 5: Loving and Loathing Science

Oct. 17 – homework: Chapter 6: Looking Inward: Art and the Human Mind

Oct. 24 – homework: Chapter 7: Wordless Music and Abstract Art

Oct .31 – homework: Chapter 8: Newton’s Clockwork Universe. Report #1 due

Nov. 7 – homework: Chapter 9: Einstein’s Space-Time Universe

Nov. 14 – homework: Chapter 10: Art with a Cosmic Perspective

Nov. 21 – homework: Chapter 11: Surrealist Science

Dec. 5 – homework: Chapter 12: The Atomic Sublime.

Dec. 12 – homework: Chapter 13: The Disunity of Nature. Report #2 due

Dec. 17 (Tues)- Last chance to turn in late assignments.

Grades, Assignments, and Attendance:

1) Weekly on-time homework.

2) Two reports (3-5 pages).

3) Print all assignments.

4) Participation in class discussion.

5) Regular attendance; it will be hard for you to pass this course if you have more than 2 absences.

If you need to contact me between classes, use this address:

Do not send me messages using Canvas

DO NOT SEND Lynn Gamwell emails about your attendance. If you are absent, the information about what you missed IS ON YOUR SYLLABUS and you can turn in your printed homework when you return to class.

Academic Integrity: Academic dishonesty, including plagiarism, will not be tolerated.

Cutting and pasting from the Internet is plagiarism. Students who cheat will fail the assignment and not receive higher than a C in this course. More serious violations will be handled through the process enumerated in the SVA Handbook.

Put simply, make sure your work is your own.

Read the book Exploring the Invisible: Art, Science, and the Spiritual (Princeton University Press, 2002) by Lynn Gamwell. Give short definitions (a sentence or two) of the following terms, or state the key discovery made by a person. Where appropriate, include and example or diagram.

Art in Pursuit of the Absolute: Romanticism (ch. 1)

Enlightenment, Naturphilosophen, Romanticism, Immanuel Kant, Pantheism, Pythagoras, Jakob Böhme, Baruch Spinoza, monism and dualism, René Descartes, the Absolute, Casper David Friedrich, Franz Anton Mesmer, hypnotism, unconscious mind, Carl Gustav Carus, the sublime, Goethe’s color theory, Luke Howard, New England Transcendentalists, Thomas Cole, Alexander von Humboldt, Fredrich Church, Positivism, Auguste Comte, John Stuart Mill,

Adopting a Scientific Worldview (ch. 2)

geology, Charles Lyell, Louis Agassiz, [immutability of species], evolution by periodic flooding, evolution by acquired characteristics, evolution by natural selection, Charles Darwin, laws of genetics, man’s decent from an ape, Louis Pasteur, germ theory of disease, achromatic microscope, Schwann and Scheiden’s cell theory, national associations fro the advancement of science, science journalism/Alexander von Humboldt

French Art of Observation (ch. 3)

George Cuvier’s attitude toward evolution, popular science, Realism as an art of observation, physiognomy, Impressionism as an art of observation, M.E. Chevreul’s Laws of Simultaneous Contrast, 3-receptor theory of vision, Herman von Helmholtz, after image, color photography, physiological perspective, Monet, Art Nouveau, Ernst Haeckel, Victor Horta, HMS Challenger’s mission, Jules Verne, Emile Gallé, Odilon Redon

German and Russian Art of the Absolute (ch. 4)

German response to Darwin, panpsychism, experimental psychology, G.T. Fechner, Wilhelm Wundt, evolving consciousness, cosmic consciousness, Peter Ouspensky’s Tertium Organum, theosophy, Rudolf Steiner, Jugenstil, Hermann Obrist, August Endell, Theodor Lipp’s aesthetics of empathy, Russian response to Darwin, Kulbin, Kandinsky’s early work in Munich, Suprematism, zaum, Malevich’s Squares

Loving and Loathing Science (ch. 5)

Painting with light, colored pigment, primaries of colored pigment, colored light, primaries of colored light, optical mixture, blue and yellow pigment mixes to what color? blue and yellow light mixes to what color? Charles Henry, aesthetic protractor, Morel-Magnan theory of hereditary insanity, Lombroso’s Man of Genius, neuroses, Munch, Max Nordau, entropy, second law of thermodynamics, exploration of the arctic: Northwest Passage and North Pole, Alfred Kubin

Looking Inward: Art and the Human Mind (ch. 6)

Mind as a machine (a passive, electrical recorder of sensations), mind as an organism (an active, dynamic organizer of sensations), Paul Broca, Charcot, Monet’s view of perception, Helmholtz’s physiology of perception, J. Hughlings Jackson’s evolutionary view of the brain, the development of the eye from the brain, Cézanne’s view of the brain, what did the Cubists (Picasso, Braque and Gris) do when they reached the brink of abstract art in 1911? why didn’t they cross the line into abstraction and become abstract artists? describe the basics differences between: physiological perspective, cosmic perspective, and psychological perspective. a dynamic illness, the talking cure, hysteria, Moreaus’s femme fatale, diagnosis by the patient’s appearance (by looking at the patient), diagnosis by the patient’s free association of ideas (by listening to the patient)

Wordless Music and Abstract Art (ch. 7)

Harmony of the spheres, Kepler’s harmonic law of planetary motion, Newton’s color circle, analogy of hearing and vision, what is the physical basis of harmony? Kandinsky, Ciurlionis and MacDonald-Wright’s visual music, abstract films of color and music, gravity waves echoing the Big Bang

Culmination of Newton’s Universe (ch. 8)

Periodic table of elements, electromagnetic spectrum, radio waves, X rays, wireless telegraph, ionosphere, Van Gogh’s Starry Night, how were Uranus and Neptune discovered? Kirchoff’’s spectrography, astrophysics, Delaunay’s simultaneous windows, Marinetti’s “aesthetics of speed,” Boccioni’s Unique Forms of Continuity in Space, Rayonism, Vorticism, beta particles, electrons, solar system model of an atom, protons, neutrons, Der Blaue Reiter, Marc’s Blue Horse with Rainbow, Hertzsprung-Russell diagram, Klee’s Genesis of the Stars

Einstein’s Space-Time Universe (ch. 9)

Michelson-Morley experiment, Einstein’s principle of relativity, E=mc2 , Minkowski’s space-time, 1919 confirmation of the general theory of relativity, popularization of relativity in Germany, England, America, and France, Einstein’s cosmic religiosity, quantum, photon, distinction between abstract art and non-representational art

Art with a Cosmic Perspective (ch. 10)

Synthesis of the microcosm and macrocosm, biomorphic abstraction, Kupka’s Cosmic Spring, Arp’s Constellations, cepheid variable stars, compare the views of the size of the universe in 1921 and 2002, Hubble Deep Field, Brancusi, Beginning of the World, Hubble’s law, discovery of Pluto, Calder’s mobiles, radio waves in atmosphere, Big Bang, non-Euclidean geometry, van Doesburg’s 4-dimensional architecture, Moholy-Nagy’s gravity-free graphic art, Gestalt psychology, Albers’s Hommage to the Square, Escher’s Other World, Lissitzky’s Proun series, Naum Gabo’s translucent spheres, Bruno Taut’s Cathedral star, Mies van der Rohe’s glass skyscrapers, the International style

Surrealist Science (ch. 11)

Psychological perspective, automatism, Pierre Janet, unconscious mind, repressed wish, free association, Sigmund Freud, the interpretation of dreams, Magritte’s Key of Dreams, relation between Freud and Breton, relation between Jacques Lacan and Dalí, Carl Jung, collective unconscious, archetype, Pollock’s Male and Female, Magritte’s Time Transfixed, Wolfgang Paalen, Remedios Varo

Atomic Sublime (ch. 12)

Enrico Fermi, Cicero’s “Dream of Scipio”, Aeropittura, transmutation of atoms, nuclear fission, nuclear chain reaction, nuclear fission bomb (atomic bomb), atomic sublime, Barnett Newman’s Onement I, Mark Rothko’s floating rectangles of color, Pollock’s drip paintings, Fontana’s slashed canvases and neon drawings, nuclear fusion, hydrogen fusion bomb (H-bomb), strontium 90, Newman, Fourteen Stations of the Cross, Mark Rothko’s Rothko Chapel

Disunity of Nature (ch. 13)

Cynicism, Diogenes, introduction of statistics in the kinetic theory of gases, chance, Duchamp’s 3 Standard Stoppages, Uncertainty Principle, Man Ray’s Chance, Dalí’s response to Heisenberg, what are Minimal artists trying to communicate (what does their art mean?)? Eve Laramé’s Apparatus, Matthew Ritchie’s Stacked, mysticism, Dionysius, Beuys’s Framework for an Absurd Wilderness and Honey Pump, Laib’s Milkstone, neuropsychoanalysis, Bill Viola’s Veiling, Turrell’s Roden Crater, Anselm Kiefer’s Essenz/Ek-sistenz

Each report should be 3-5 pages

Report #1

Attend the exhibition Agnes Denes: Absolutes and Intermediates (opens. Oc.t 9th) The Shed, Hudson Yards

Describe artist’s work on the conservation of nature.


Report #2

Attend the American Museum of Natural History, Central Park West between 77th-81st.

Describe the Hall of Human Origins and the show in the Planetarium dome. ATTACH PROOF OF ATTENDANCE.

Rules for Citations in your Reports: When you quote, paraphrase or summarize ideas—whether from a periodical, book, interview, non-print or electronic sources—you must cite the source. Use in-text citation (in parentheses) after the quotation, summary or paraphrase, giving the last name of the author, or one word from the title of the work, and the page(s). On the final page of your own paper, include a bibliography that lists all sources you have used. Include the author’s name, the title of the wok, and the publication information (publisher’s name, place and date of publication). For more information, consult your instructor or an MLA guide.

Need help writing your reports? Go to the SVA Writing Center.

Students with Disabilities. In order to receive academic accommodations due to a disability, a student must first register with the Office of Disability Services (ODS). Students approved for accommodations will be given an ODS Accommodation Letter to submit to their instructors. If a student does not provide an ODS Accommodation Letter to their instructor, they will not be eligible to receive accommodations in that course. All instructors are required to adhere to SVA’s policies regarding accommodations for students with disabilities. Students who have a need for academic accommodations, or suspect they may have a disability, should contact the ODS via telephone: (212) 592-2396, or visit the office: 23 Lexington Avenue, Mezzanine, in the George Washington Residence, or email:

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