MATH COLLOQUIUM, THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 20, 11:00am, STARR 138


SPEAKER:     Prof. James Walker

            Humanities Department, Ferris State University      


TITLE:           The Geometry of Renaissance Art.





I will begin my presentation by showing a few examples of painting done in the late middle ages that contained no sense of a third dimension or, for that matter, any recognizable space whatsoever.  Because patrons in the early Renaissance demanded a more realistic look to the art they commissioned, new techniques were invented to give painting a look that would more closely resemble real life. These techniques evolved out of the study of geometry and mathematics. Using these experimental techniques, paintings were drawn out first on a canvas using the new geometry and then were painted over in color with the chosen subject matter. I will show how this geometric look created a third dimension on a two-dimensional surface and led to some of the great masterpieces of the Renaissance, including Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper.


Not all artists of the Renaissance were of the caliber of Leonardo, however. Many of lesser abilities were given other tasks in art workshops that included the painting of maps for explorers who were crossing the Atlantic and Pacific oceans in search of new lands. These maps were often drawn from crude sketches handed to artists by explorers such as Amerigo Vespucci. I will show how artists borrowed the geometric system that had been invented during this time for large scale painting to create navigational lines on maps that were the forerunners of latitude and longitude lines.  This borrowed system greatly aided mariners in their journeys and made an important contribution to the settlements made in the Americas.  I will show how these early painters/cartographers used the system by displaying a number of examples of their painted work. 


REFRESHMENTS:  11:00 am,  STARR 138


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