The First Art Newspaper on the Net   Established in 1996 United States Thursday, June 30, 2016


Victorian scientists' drawings of nebulae explored in new book by Oxford University historian
Observing By Hand, a new book by Oxford University historian Dr Omar W Nasim, relates how these scientists used the most mundane equipment – simple pencils and paper – to record distant space phenomena.
OXFORD.- Before the Hubble telescope, Victorian scientists used pencil and paper to record their observations of the stars. Their beautifully detailed drawings were the precursors of modern astronomy, and may even have inspired one of the most well-known works of Impressionist art, according to a new book.

Observing By Hand, a new book by Oxford University historian Dr Omar W Nasim, relates how these scientists used the most mundane equipment – simple pencils and paper – to record distant space phenomena. The book focuses on drawings of nebulae, the interstellar clouds of dust and gas where new stars are born.

'In the 18th and 19th centuries, nebulae were a very new and enigmatic phenomenon,' said Dr Nasim, a Newton International Fellow at Oxford University’s Faculty of History and The Oxford Research Centre for the Humanities (TORCH). 'Scientists were used to observing round objects such as stars and planets, so the misty shapes of nebulae were astoundingly challenging.

'They made thousands of drawings to try and capture the shape and nature of these mysterious, ambiguous forms. They would usually work in pencil first, and later produce definitive ink drawings or prints. The physical act of drawing helped them understand the structure of these objects they observed.'

Dr Nasim believes that one drawing he studied was the inspiration behind Van Gogh’s painting Starry Night. The link between Van Gogh and Lord Rosse is not a new one, but Dr Nasim provides further context and insight into the connection.

Lord Rosse, an Irish aristocrat and astronomer, built the largest telescope in existence at the time, which had a mirror six feet in diameter and became known locally as “the Leviathan of Parsonstown”. With this instrument, he was able to observe and describe the “Great Spiral”, which we know today as the Whirlpool Galaxy. His engraving of 1850 was the first to define the spiral shape of the object.

Dr Nasim said: 'The Whirlpool Galaxy can clearly be seen at the centre of Van Gogh’s Starry Night, which seems to have been inspired by the artist’s knowledge of Camille Flammarion, a French writer who popularised Rosse’s vision. Flammarion described astronomical objects floating, as though ‘lost in the depths of the sky’, and was moved by the awe and terror they evoked ‘even in a cold engraving’.

'Van Gogh wrote of a similar sense of wonder shortly before he painted Starry Night. He paints the night sky as though newly discovered astronomical phenomena could be seen with the naked eye, expanding human imagination and perception by lending the viewer "telescopic eyes".'

Throughout the book, Dr Nasim describes a group of scientists who went to great lengths to pursue their study of the stars. John Herschel travelled as far as the Cape of Good Hope in search of clearer skies, while Wilhelm Tempel worked under poor conditions in a half-built and leaking observatory.

'Some of Tempel’s ideas turned out to be quite wrong, and he died in isolation – but you see twentieth-century artists such as Max Ernst later paying homage to him,' said Dr Nasim.

From Observing by Hand to Observing by Light, Dr Nasim describes his next move: “My next book will deal with the effect of photography, from when it arrives in the 19th century, up until the 1930s. Nineteenth-century photography of the nebulae has been described as "the only modern achievement of photography", and I’ll examine that claim.'

Observing By Hand: Sketching the Nebulae in the Nineteenth Century by Omar Nasim is available now from the University of Chicago Press.





Today's News

August 12, 2014

A Neandertal occupation is discovered on the bank of the Saône river in France

Palestinian artist Khaled Jarrar barred from going "To The Square 2" in Helsinki

Pace Gallery opens summer group show at Entertainment building in Hong Kong

LiveAuctioneers' CEO: Six-figure prices for Asian works sold online 'no longer a shock'

David Bowie exhibition at Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago debuts Sennheiser technology

Unique coin expected to fetch up to $593,000 at Dix Noonan Webb auction in London

Norton Conyers announced as winner of The Historic Houses Association & Sotheby's Restoration Award 2014

Newcomb Art Gallery welcomes Mónica Ramírez-Montagut as new Executive Director

Jenness Cortez unveils new western paintings at Trailside Gallery in Jackson Hole

Morphy's Coin-op & Advertising Auction led by rare complete collection of Coca-Cola calendars

Second Middle Eastern Contemporary Art Online Auction returns to the Auction Room this October

Victorian scientists' drawings of nebulae explored in new book by Oxford University historian

POPOP: Pop and Op Art, Andy Warhol, peers on display at Indiana State University Art Gallery

Japan selected as fifth and final international site for innovative Scottish Ten

teNeues publishes 'New York Snapshots' by Carter Berg

Secondhand: Exhibition at Pier 24 Photography features artists who build repositories of found images

Photography-only crowdfunding website provides platform for global talent and diverse campaigns

Prospect New Orleans exceeds fundraising goal in first-ever challenge Grant

"Temporary sculpture museum" opens in Chicago next month

Most Popular Last Seven Days



1.- Newly discovered Van Gogh sketchbook to be published

2.- Portraits of the Duchess of Cambridge from British Vogue centenary issue acquired by National Portrait Gallery

3.- Foam presents spectacular exhibition of work by Helmut Newton

4.- After 30 years "hidden in plain sight," still life painting is identified as a Gauguin; artwork is highlight of sale

5.- Smithsonian releases Learning Lab for everyone to use museum resources

6.- Angst and deep pockets show state of art market in 47th edition of Art Basel

7.- Christo exhibition falls victim to own success

8.- Sotheby's London Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale totals $151.9 million

9.- The National Gallery explores great paintings from a unique perspective

10.- Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum explores Caravaggio and the painters of the north



Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .

 

Founder:
Ignacio Villarreal
Editor & Publisher:Jose Villarreal - Consultant: Ignacio Villarreal Jr.
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez

Royalville Communications, Inc
produces:

ignaciovillarreal.org theavemariasound.org juncodelavega.org facundocabral-elfinal.org
Founder's Site. The most varied versions
of this beautiful prayer.
Hommage
to a Mexican poet.
Hommage
       

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful