Posted by: jeannineatkins | October 31, 2010

Art Meets Science

On Saturday my husband and I went to the Berkshire Museum http://berkshiremuseum.org in Pittsfield, MA. Peter is fond of this museum as it has the triceratops models used for a television production of perhaps his favorite childhood book, The Enormous Egg, and we both like the way they include art and science in one museum. We saw a show on ancient Egypt, with a row of plaster casts of heads found in mummies: science has figured out a way to use what’s found to suggest face features. A smaller show featured Nancy Graves’s depictions of camels in two dimensions, three dimensions, and film. I loved the artist’s statement (click to enlarge):

What do you think? Maybe Beatrix Potter would have nodded. She studied animals and plants long before using them in stories. Here’s something from the sketchbook she kept when she was ten years old. http://www.peterrabbit.com/potters-world-potters-art-childhood.asp

And I was introduced to the work of Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717) http://www.jeannineatkins.com/books/girls.htm in the National Museum of Women in the Arts http://www.nmwa.org/, but what I love is not only her gorgeous paintings, but how she drew as a way to explore science, studying and breaking new ground into knowledge of metamorphosis and the interdependency of plants and animals.

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Responses

  1. What, are all the commenters asleep?! Or maybe they’re voting, in which case they’re forgiven. Anyway, it gives me a chance (and inspires my inclination) to for once be the person who leaves the first comment.
    The Berkshire Museum is a cool place, and it is well worth visiting if you’re in the area. It has fun stuff for kids, too, and you have to like (well, I have to like, anyway) any museum which has a realistic life-sized Stegosaurus model on its front lawn.
    It has some significant sentimental value for me as well, being one of the places Jeannine and I traveled to when we were first dating. And on that visit we serendipitously discovered the Triceratops models Jeannine mentioned, which blew my mind, because I’d lived my entire life up to that point within fifty miles of the place, and I never knew they were there.
    It is also the site, according to my parents, of the first public exhibition of my artwork — a crayon drawing of dinosauresque critters, which I’d drawn in kindergarten or first grade, I think, and which was part of a show of artwork by children. I believe the museum staff gave it the title “The Big Animal”.
    But one of the coolest things, which Jeannine didn’t mention, is a modestly-sized marble statue called “The Veiled Rebecca” by Giovanni Benzoni. When I first saw this thing a couple of decades ago, I found it simply amazing. And I still find it so. The artist was able — don’t ask me how, because I find it almost inconceivable that human hands have this kind of skill — to carve hard marble in such a way as to make you believe that you are looking at a piece of gauzy veil over the statue’s face. It is quite incredible to behold “in the flesh”, as it were. I took a few photos during our most recent visit to the museum (I posted one at http://peterlaird.livejournal.com/), but they only give you an idea of what this piece really looks like. In the gallery, with the lighting they use on it, the marble really does look like thin cloth. It’s almost kind of eerie… but very beautiful. — PL

  2. I had a soft spot for the Berkshire Museum as it was. But learning that it was the stuff of first dates for the two of you makes me like it even more.
    (The Enormous Egg was one of my favorite books, too, and I have an old hardcover copy waiting for Sweetpea when she’s older.)

  3. “I had a soft spot for the Berkshire Museum as it was.”
    Coincidentally, while we were at the museum this time, I thought of the graphic you use as part of your signature — Jeannine had told me it is supposed to be a portrait of Sappho, and it just so happens that one of the statues near the “Veiled Rebecca” in the rearranged statue gallery is of… Sappho!
    “But learning that it was the stuff of first dates for the two of you makes me like it even more.”
    Thanks, Amy! Back in July or August of 1982, it was actually Jeannine’s idea to go to the museum — she wanted to see an exhibit of masks. Unfortunately, when we got there, the exhibit of masks had already moved on, so we decided to make the most of it and check out the rest of the museum — and that’s when we (almost literally) stumbled onto the Triceratopses. (It would have been nice to see the masks, but then — as now — I was happy simply to be with Jeannine… and the dinos just made it a little sweeter.)
    “(The Enormous Egg was one of my favorite books, too, and I have an old hardcover copy waiting for Sweetpea when she’s older.)”
    I hope it’s one with those lovely black and white Louis Darling illustrations — I love that guy’s pen and ink work. — PL

  4. Thanks, Amy!

  5. Thanks — you’re not only the first, but lengthiest commentator!

  6. It does indeed have the Louis Darling illustrations! The book wouldn’t look right to me without them. They are wonderful.
    I thought of the graphic you use as part of your signature — Jeannine had told me it is supposed to be a portrait of Sappho
    I don’t think anyone knows for sure who it was supposed to be, but Sappho’s the most common attribution and a good guess. She appears in a fresco from Pompeii, and there aren’t very many classical women we associate with writing other than Sappho. Though I do like to imagine that perhaps the artist knew another young woman who loved books…

  7. That was me! LJ keeps logging me out for some reason.

  8. Louis Darling
    “It does indeed have the Louis Darling illustrations! The book wouldn’t look right to me without them. They are wonderful.”
    I agree completely! And having recently seen some newer editions of a few of the Beverly Cleary books that Darling also illustrated years ago, but now with different illustrators’ work (and in my opinion, inferior-to-Darling work), I was concerned that “The Enormous Egg” might suffer the same fate in a newer printing. But from what I’ve been able to gather in a quick Internet search, the book in all its iterations only has the Louis Darling drawings.
    Something that also popped up in my search was some information about the 1968 “NBC Children’s Theatre” television adaptation of “The Enormous Egg”, at this link:
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0311075/
    I am pretty sure I never saw it, but I would love to. It sounds very low-budget, and the fact that it is all narrated — with no spoken dialogue — is surprising. But still, it has a Triceratops in it! — PL


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