In the early modern period (1500–1800) in Europe, there was a lively interchange between art and science, especially in the development of mathematical perspective (the systems created to represent three dimensions in two). This exhibition reconsiders the self-conscious use of perspective not only as a symbolic form in itself but also as a critical space in which artists contributed to the production of what is now considered the scientific discipline of optics. The works in this exhibition include a dazzling array of invention: architectural and perspectival treatises designed by Albrecht Dürer, Wenzel Jamnitzer, and Paul Vredeman de Vries; anamorphic prints and peep or perspective boxes; paintings including an early sixteenth-century German panel painting given to Pomona College by the Samuel Kress Foundation; puzzles; instructional manuals and diagrams; and even a camera obscura specially constructed at the Benton Museum of Art. Augmented by contemporary interpretations of similar subjects, the works here show science in the making and the pivotal role that artists played in scientific discovery.
This exhibition is the result of a seminar comprised of physics, studio art, and art history students, co-taught by Dwight Whitaker, professor of physics, and Victoria Sancho Lobis, director of the Benton and associate professor of art history, at Pomona College. This interdisciplinary approach replicates the rich shared ground of art and science prior to the modern era of specialization and professionalization.