West Surrey Area
Museums & Art Galleries
From Leonardo to You
Impressions of the Special Interest Day
led by Sally Hoban
on November 2nd
“Oh! It’s such a perfect day, I’m glad I spent it with
What can I say! It was indeed a
perfect day and I’m so
glad I spent it with you fellow NADFAS members.
The morning began with coffee and good spirits and the knowledge that
we had lost our male speaker, and that Sally Hoban, our other speaker,
had undertaken to run the whole day. However, what could have
ended as a disaster turned out to be an absolute triumph.
Our first lecture, beautifully illustrated with slides, showed how
science has been portrayed in Art. Sally Hoban spoke with clarity
and really knew her subject. She took us from Raphael’s painting
of Pythagoras to Hogarth’s sketches of anatomical dissection via
Descartes, Galileo, Holbein’s anamorphic skull and Joseph Wright’s
paintings of electricity, phosphorus and the air pump. Indeed, so
many examples that I can’t catalogue them all. Suffice to say
that it was a fascinating and informative hour that flew by.
After coffee with succulent home made biscuits and shortbread we
returned to the lecture hall thirsting for more.
The second lecture examined how artists and scientists have worked
together to create art and further the course of knowledge.
The group that figured largely in this conception was the Lunar
Society, founded in Birmingham in the nineteenth century, whose
were led by Erasmus Wedgewood and included Matthew Bolton (Soho House,
his home, was their original meeting place), Josiah Wedgewood, Benjamin
Franklin, Joseph Priestley and James Watt. What a meeting of
One of the avenues that we explored was Photography. We learned
about the Camera Obscura and
how many women were involved in the
development of photography, notably a lady called Miss Wilkinson, a
relative of Matthew Bolton known as “Aunt Bessie “.
Jewellery was influenced by Science. For example, brooches were
designed to represent Halley’s Comet. William Morris worked with
scientists to discover original dyes for his fabrics and
wallpaper. Gray’s Anatomy demonstrates the close collaboration of
the scientist and artist in the wonderful anatomical drawing which are
an art form in themselves.
Sally then went on to tell us of the work of Alumit Ishai the
neurosurgeon who is studying the effects of Art on the brain and also
the influence of cubism on camouflage and showed us the example of
By now it was lunch time and we went to nourish our bodies and give our
over nourished brains a rest. So much upon which to reflect and
research that could be followed up should we choose to do so.
Not only is the local NADFAS society comprised of clever and informed
people, it also has in its numbers some excellent cooks and caterers,
certainly on the committee. What a delicious lunch was provided
prepared by these talented people; such interesting flavours and
textures combined together. Bravo
ladies and thank you.
Fortified we returned to continue explorations. I wondered if I
find it difficult to absorb any more information but no, the third
lecture had even more to set me thinking. I have to admit that
of God’s cloak being in the shape of a human brain (see below) was not
that I was prepared to give credence to but the fact that doctors are
taking their students to visit art galleries to identify ailments from
paintings I found intriguing, as was the theory that Fibonacci’s Golden
Rule was the secret of the harmony in paintings such as the Mona
Lisa. Harmony + Balance =
The idea that really blew my mind was Professor Richard Taylor’s theory
of Chaos; using a computer to
do Fractal Analysis of Jackson Pollock’s
paintings to prove they are originals not fakes (Art Detective by
Richard Taylor). Try explaining that to your husband when you get
Yes! It was a perfect day thanks to Gwen and Liz who set it up,
Committee who provided for our every need and fed us superbly, the man
behind the projector Richard, and of course Sally Hoban who gave
us an exhilarating and thought provoking experience.
Thank you all and Please may
we have more such days in the future.
Related Link (opens in new window):
Sally considers the
painted an outline of the brain in the Sistine Chapel
(with thanks to Jonathan Cross)