• Fritz Kahn (German, 1888-1968). Der Weg der entwikclung (The path of development) from the series Das Leben des Menschen: Eine volkstumliche Anatomie, Biologie, physiologie und Entwicklungsgeschichte des Menschen, vol. II. Published by Franck`sche Verlagshandlung, Stuttgart, 1929, volume IV. Courtesy University of Pittsburgh Library System.

    Fritz Kahn (German, 1888-1968). Der Weg der entwikclung (The path of development) from the series Das Leben des Menschen: Eine volkstumliche Anatomie, Biologie, physiologie und Entwicklungsgeschichte des Menschen, vol. II. Published by Franck`sche Verlagshandlung, Stuttgart, 1929, volume IV. Courtesy University of Pittsburgh Library System.

    • Fritz Kahn (German, 1888-1968). Der Weg der entwikclung (The path of development) from the series Das Leben des Menschen: Eine volkstumliche Anatomie, Biologie, physiologie und Entwicklungsgeschichte des Menschen, vol. II. Published by Franck`sche Verlagshandlung, Stuttgart, 1929, volume IV. Courtesy University of Pittsburgh Library System.
    • Fritz Kahn (German, 1888-1968). Die prinzipien der warmeschutzes (The principles of Thermal protection) from the series Das Leben des Menschen: Eine volkstumliche Anatomie, Biologie, physiologie und Entwicklungsgeschichte des Menschen.
    • Fritz Kahn (German, 1888-1968). Das Vegetative Nervensystem (The Autonomic Nervous System), tab. XI from the series Das Leben des Menschen: Eine volkstumliche Anatomie, Biologie, physiologie und Entwicklungsgeschichte des Menschen. Published by Franck`sche Verlagshandlung, Stuttgart, 1929, volume IV. Courtesy University of Pittsburgh Library System.
    • Fritz Kahn (German, 1888-1968). Muskel-u Klingelleitung in ihrer funftelligent Ubereinstimmung`` (Muscles and doorbell wire corresponding in five parts)

    The Body Reconfigured

    Annika Johnson

    Kahn, The Life of Man (1923-1931)

    The title of Fritz Kahn’s five-volume series – The Life of Man: A Popular Anatomy, Biology, Physiology and Developmental History of Man – reveals his ambition to synthesize new scientific knowledge into texts and images designed for a broad, non-specialist audience.  Kahn imagined the human body as a microcosm of both the universe and of the modern world: atoms, cells, and proteins performed their duties within a complex system of mechanical parts like workers in a great modern city.
    A team of illustrators working under Kahn’s supervision produced the illustrations for The Life of Man, but establishing a uniform graphic language – something that preoccupied Kahn’s contemporary Otto Neurath – was not a goal.  Images for The Life of Man were appropriated from a variety of sources and no effort was made to create a homogeneous graphic style.  The diversity of image types – including microscopic photography, graphs, physiognomic illustrations, and three-dimensional photographs (complete with 3D glasses!) – expressed Kahn’s belief that different scientific concepts demanded different and sometimes multiple methods of visualization.
    Comparative images dominated Kahn’s approach to scientific visualization. Such images emphasized process over realistic graphic renderings of discrete anatomical parts.  Kahn tackled the challenge of representing biological processes by transforming the body into a complex of machine-like organs assembled from gears, levers, conveyor belts and pulleys.  Unlike the plates of the Encyclopédie, which broke down processes into discrete stages and favored a “true-to-life” mode of representation, Kahn’s images encourage the reader to reconstruct the internal processes of the body by imagining the living organism to function like a well-designed machine.
    The Life of Man established standards according to which the reader could measure progress and difference.  Numerous illustrations of bodies deemed abnormal or dysfunctional served to reinforce a norm.  Kahn’s definition of “normal” and his constructions of race and gender were based on long-standing visual traditions that will be encountered in other parts of this exhibition.  Physiognomic illustrations (strikingly similar to those developed in the eighteenth century by Johann Kaspar Lavater) are not completely at odds with Kahn’s mechanic illustrations: both types of image impose a standardized view of a normal body – often white and European.

    Kahn, Man as Industrial Palace (1931)

    To Fritz Kahn (1888-1968), the diffusion of scientific knowledge and its practical applications required compelling visualizations that transformed complex ideas into terms accessible to a modern consumer public.  Man as Industrial Palace (Der Mensch als Industriepalast), the image for which Kahn is best known, first appeared in 1931 in the final volume of Kahn’s series The Life of Man.  Created for a non-specialist audience, the image was intended to hang in the modern home or classroom.
    Man as Industrial Palace graphically illustrates Kahn’s goal to define the workings of the human body “in light of modern science.”  The living body as it acts, works, thinks, and dreams is reconfigured according to the author-entrepreneur’s vision for a modern science and pedagogy that demanded a new approach to scientific illustration.  Rejecting the anatomist’s cadaver, Kahn’s illustration of the inner workings of the human body drew from the mechanical world of automobiles, cameras, and telephones that surrounded his middle-class readership.
    The deconstructed bodies illustrated in the Encyclopédie may have contained much visual information about their subjects, but they revealed little about the function of bodily systems.  Kahn built up the body for his readers, beginning with the atom and ending with the senses, each component of which functions as part of a fully integrated mechanic system.
    Kahn’s mechanic analogies are fraught with ambiguities: do they educate readers about their own bodies, or about the production and use of consumer goods that position their bodies in modernity?  Man as Industrial Palace presents a body of scientific knowledge that was also a microcosm of German society during the Weimar Republic (1919-1933).  Kahn’s hierarchical arrangement of the head and torso mirrored departments in a modern factory.  Men in suits debate in the centers of reasoning and decision-making, while women operate the switchboards of the nervous system.   Below, in the abdomen, uniformed laborers sort starches from fats in the guts of the body.  The educated, consumerist audience for such images more likely profited from the industrial complex than labored in its factories. For further images, please visit Der Mensch als Industriepalast:

  • Otto Neurath (Austrian, 1882-1945). Modern Man in the Making, Knopf, 1939, p. 24

    Otto Neurath (Austrian, 1882-1945). Modern Man in the Making, Knopf, 1939, p. 24. Courtesy University of Pittsburgh Library System.

    • Otto Neurath (Austrian, 1882-1945). Modern Man in the Making, Knopf, 1939, p. 24
    • Otto Neurath (Austrian, 1882-1945). Modern Man in the Making, Knopf, 1939, p. 65.
    • Otto Neurath (Austrian, 1882-1945). Modern Man in the Making, Knopf, 1939, p. 25.
    • Otto Neurath (Austrian, 1882-1945). Modern Man in the Making, Knopf, 1939, p. 17.
    • Otto Neurath (Austrian, 1882-1945). Modern Man in the Making, Knopf, 1939, p. 85.
    • Otto Neurath (Austrian, 1882-1945). Modern Man in the Making, Knopf, 1939, p. 99.
    • Otto Neurath (Austrian, 1882-1945). Modern Man in the Making, Knopf, 1939, p. 53.

    ISOTYPE-Teaching Images

    Drew Armstrong

    Neurath, Modern Man in the Making (1939)

    Referring to the Biblical confusion of languages, Otto Neurath (1882-1945) regarded the “debabelization” of humanity as an urgent task of the modern era that would ultimately serve to create international harmony and understanding.  His proposed “International System of Typographic Picture Education” – ISOTYPE – was developed as a means to clarify “complex relations in society and economics, in biology, the engineering sciences, and a number of other fields.”

    In the context of post-World War I Europe, Neurath observed that mass media such as print advertising and film permitted the general public to acquire knowledge effortlessly through “optical impressions” – regardless of class or educational background.  Inspired by the potential of the modern world but deeply attuned to its pitfalls, Neurath advocated for the development of a common language of images as part of a standardized system of public education.  He described ISOTYPE as a “helping-language” – a coherent system of graphic signs for “teaching through the eye.”

    Neurath’s “teaching-images” were designed as part of a more general renovation of public education encompassing both classroom instruction for children and museum installations aimed at working class adults.  In Neurath’s Museum of Society and Economy (Vienna, 1925-1934), democracy and scientific literacy were to be fostered through displays of statistical data and other representations.  Establishing common understanding through the experience of a new kind of museum was a means to counter social fragmentation and the divisive effects of specialization.  Models for Neurath’s museum included Universal Expositions held in major European and North American cities since the mid-nineteenth century.  These events attracted huge international audiences, bringing a mass public into contact with the products of industry, science, art, and manufacturing.

    Inspired by the Encyclopédie but critical of its structure,  Neurath wanted his pictorial system to become part of a new encyclopedia project that would present information in a consistent, unambiguous manner intelligible to a global audience.  Its goal was “to give all men a common starting-point of knowledge ... to give simple and clear accounts of everything as a solid base for our thoughts and our acts, and to make us fully conscious of the conditions in which we are living.”

    Comenius, Orbis Sensualium Pictus (1658)

    First published in 1658, Comenius’s primer – Orbis Sensualium Pictus – was translated into numerous languages and was used for teaching Latin to children for over a century.  As a Protestant and early advocate for universal education, the point of Comenius’s work was to make the Bible accessible to all.  Neurath admired the pedagogical objectives of Comenius’s book but thought the images lacked clarity.

    Containing over 150 cheap woodcuts, the Orbis Sensualium Pictus illustrated “a world of things obvious to the senses, drawn in pictures.”  Each image is keyed into words and short phrases in English and Latin placed in facing columns of text, a technique intended to facilitate the acquisition of a basic vocabulary in a range of disciplines.

    As the reader proceeds from the beginning of the book through pages illustrating common animals and plants, principles of gardening, the parts of the home, the elements of painting, writing, and printing, she or he (Comenius believe that girls and boys had the same intellectual abilities) is exposed to increasingly sophisticated and modern concepts.  The student thus becomes acquainted with simple terms relating to geometry, astronomy, and philosophy while non-Christian belief-systems are illustrated at the end of the book in figures representing “Judaism” and “Mahometism.”

    Neurath, International Picture Language (1936)

    In size and composition, Neurath’s handbook – International Picture Language. The First Rules of Isotype – recalls primers like those of Comenius and through the use small images and a text written in Basic English, served a similar purpose.  Neurath, however, was intent not on teaching a verbal language through the use of images, but on developing a language of images based on standardized pictorial forms and consistent principles of graphic composition.

    For Comenius writing in seventeenth-century Europe, knowledge of Latin was essential for accessing specialized knowledge in most fields of scholarly inquiry.  Writing in the twentieth century between the two World Wars, Neurath proposed the development of a common language of images to serve the needs of business and science.

    Neurath’s pictorial language derived from more general investigations in the 1920s that sought to understand how graphic design and typography could respond to life in modern urban environments, characterized by increasing visual distraction and shortened attention spans. He thus eliminated ambiguous conventions like perspective in favor of simplified, two-dimensional symbols, and limited the use of colors in his graphics. Drawing on techniques exploited in mass media and popular culture, Neurath’s visual language attempted to make complex ideas accessible to a general public.

  • Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991). Magnetic Field from Recto, 1958-1961.

    Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991). Magnetic Field from Recto, 1958-1961.

    • Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991). Magnetic Field from Recto, 1958-1961.
    • Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991). Light through Prism, 1958-1961.
    • Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991). Collision of a Moving Sphere and a Stationary Sphere, 1958-1961.

    Imag(in)ing the Macrocosm

    Drew Armstrong 

    The images from Cellarius and Hubble diverge from one another in regard to relations they may suggest between microcosm and macrocosm.  Certainly, in beholding Hubble images, and then considering them in relation to work such as Berenice Abbott’s photography, one might seek out parallels between patterns of order as they exist at the largest scale (images of nebulae) and patterns of order as they exist at the smallest scale (images of ripple tanks).

    The search for such patterns may in fact underwrite the most venturesome kinds of scientific inquiry today.  Yet, as an explicit subject of commentary, these parallels often lie beyond the workaday concerns of contemporary scientists, and it falls to artists, such as the famous artist-architect Le Corbusier whose work appears on the opposite wall, to scrutinize them closely.  Not so when Cellarius worked.  As Johannes Janssonius (1588-1664) remarked, Cellarius’s work was part of a “general description of the entire world, namely Heaven and Earth,” that avowedly sought to “discover the Harmoniam Macrocosmicam, the concordance and harmony of the Great World,” one that required terrestrial phenomena to “correspond… correctly to the heavenly bodies in a given proportion and comparison.”


    Abbott and the MIT Physical Science Study Committee

    Colleen O’Reilly

    In 1958, Berenice Abbott (1898-1991) was hired by the Physical Science Study Committee (PSSC) at MIT to work on the development of a new physics textbook for American high school students.  In the wake of the launch of Sputnik and anxieties about the global competitiveness of American science and technology, the National Science Foundation offered funding to the PSSC and other organizations who wanted to revitalize science education so that more young people would pursue scientific professions.

    Abbott, who had been working on science as a subject of photography since 1939, endeavored to make high quality images for the PSSC that clearly explained laws of motion, wave behavior, magnetism and other phenomena. For Abbott, this required the active intervention and creative imposition of an artist, traits that people sometimes imagine lie outside the realm of scientific images.

    Like many scientific images, Abbott’s photographs visualize principles that have no essential visual form.  She represents abstract concepts as concrete visual events.  As much as Abbott may reveal or penetrate nature, she also actively generates visual forms.  The apparently straightforward images belie the complexity of the processes by which they were made, which included the orchestration of lights, the deployment of mechanical devices, experiments with equipment, and the coordination of a team of people.  These methods were designed to result in images that would answer to her artistic, pedagogical agenda.

    Physics was published in 1960, and Abbott was subsequently pushed out of the project, in spite of the success of her photographs and the extent to which they were used.  She expressed deep disappointment with how the reproductions looked in the textbook, but always said that the work she did at MIT was some of the most exciting of her career.  Abbott continued to work with these images, which were circulated in the early 1960s by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service as an exhibit entitled “The Image of Physics”, and continued to be published in science journals, art magazines, and books for general audiences.  They also were and continue to be shown in museums as art objects.

    Berenice Abbott
    American, 1898-1991

    Documenting Science, ed. by Ron Kurtz
    Published by Steidl, Göttingen, 2012

    To me photography is a means, perhaps the best means of our age - of widening knowledge of our world. Photography is a method of education, for acquainting people of all ages and conditions with the turth about life today."

    -Berenice Abbott, "Statement in Regard to Photography Today," unpublished text, 1964
    On loan from Frick Fine Arts Library, University of Pittsburgh


    NASA Hubble Space Telescope Images

    Cellarius, Harmonia Macrocosmica (1708)

    Astronomical images have undergone enormous changes over the past few centuries.  Such pictures present a coherent set of issues, as they strive to picture celestial objects, provide visual supports for human knowledge of them, pack information into images, and make manifest patterns of order.

    What Hubble space photographs show are not things a human observer can ever perceive, even when the observer looks through a telescope.  Hubble space telescopic images present us with data that only emerge, as data, from the particular artifices that bring them into being: above all, compositing photographs taken at different moments in time, and coloring them in accordance with protocols that theoretical knowledge dictates.  This fact does not imply that Hubble photographs are unreliable, but simply means we cannot view the information they offer as possessing straightforward counterparts in observation.

    Plate 6 of Harmonia Macrocosmica by Andreas Cellarius (c. 1596-1665) pictures the world system of the sixteenth-century Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe (1546-1601); In Brahe’s schema, the planets revolve around the sun, but the sun and moon revolve around an unmoving earth.

    As is the case with most of the images in Cellarius’s monumental work, his depiction of Brahe’s system shows us something that itself can never be seen, the network of trajectories that celestial bodies follow.  At the same time, the system in question rests entirely on visual data, information available to human observers that they subsequently integrate into an account of the heavens.  Brahe, in fact, belonged to the last generation of astronomers who worked entirely with the naked eye.  Cellarius has taken some liberty in updating Brahe’s system, including the four moons of Jupiter that Galileo had only discovered after Brahe’s death, with the aid of a telescope.

    Both the Cellarius images and the Hubble photographs are not themselves agents of investigation—neither the Cellarius images nor the Hubble “outreach” photographs aim to establish things we do not already know, but strive to communicate pre-existing knowledge to non-specialist audiences.

  • William Cowper (Govard Bidloo), The anatomy of humane bodies, pub. by C.B. Albinus, 2nd ed. 1737, title page.

    William Cowper (Govard Bidloo), The anatomy of humane bodies, pub. by C.B. Albinus, 2nd ed. 1737, title page.

    • William Cowper (Govard Bidloo), The anatomy of humane bodies, pub. by C.B. Albinus, 2nd ed. 1737, title page.
    • William Cowper (Govard Bidloo), The anatomy of humane bodies, pub. by C.B. Albinus, 2nd ed. 1737, pl. 27.

    The Body as Microcosm

    In the first century BCE, the Roman author Vitruvius wrote: “just as the human body yields a circular outline, so too a square figure may be found from it.” [book 3, chapter 1]  Manuscript copies of Vitruvius’s text do not include illustrations and so authors who have translated and edited his work generally include images to clarify the meaning of his difficult, technical Latin.
    The circle and square have been considered the most perfect shapes since Plato, who theorized that a set of proportional relationships expressed in regular geometric forms governed the structure of the cosmos and were the cause of beauty in music and the visible world.  Vitruvius taught that the same simple forms and proportions could be found in the human body and were the source of beauty in architecture.
    The copiously illustrated 1521 Como edition of Vitruvius published by the Milanese engineer Cesare Cesariano (1475-1543) includes two wood-block prints representing the same passage.  Cesariano distorts the length of the arms and legs, hands and feet, in order for his man to fit the Vitruvian ideal.
    Visualizations of Vitruvius’s ideas about beauty, proportion, and the human body gave his work renewed meaning in the Renaissance and continued to resonate well into the twentieth century, as evidenced by Le Corbusier’s “Modulor Man.”


    Le Corbusier, Poem of the Right Angle (1955)

    Reflecting on a six-decade long career that ran from the late nineteenth century to the post-World War II era, the Swiss-born artist Le Corbusier (1887-1965) composed his Poem of the Right Angle (Le Poème de l’Angle Droit) between 1947 in 1953.  The work is a summation of his life-long enquiry into the principles of aesthetics, which he explored through media ranging from painting and architecture to ceramics and textiles.
    Unlike his earlier publications that combined photography and type to convey ideas about mass-production, standardization, and modernity, Le Corbusier’s hand is present throughout the pages of the Poem of the Right Angle.  Limited-edition color lithographs accompany each section of the poem, and typography is rejected in favor of the artist’s own script.  Abandoning perspective, idealization, and the naturalistic use of color (the copies of Renaissance paintings in the Cloister are exemplary of these principles) the form and content of the Poem of the Right Angle celebrate the beauty and immediacy of spontaneous human experience.
    The concept of proportion is central to Le Corbusier’s ideas about beauty. In antiquity, it was believed that the cosmos was ordered by a fundamental set of proportional relationships, an idea revived during the Renaissance. Simple geometrical forms – square, circle, sphere – embody these proportions and were believed to be beautiful and perfect.

    Le Corbusier, the Modulor Man

    Central to Le Corbusier’s ideas about proportion were the Fibonacci numbers, a sequence in which each term is the sum of the previous two: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, etc.  Finding this principle in natural forms – from the spiral of the nautilus shell to the length of different parts of the human body – Le Corbusier developed a sequence of standardized measurements called the Modulor.
    The accord of these preferred measurements with the human body is represented in the “Modulor Man,” a standing, male figure that incorporates the principle of the Fibonacci numbers in the following manner.  The distance from the ground to the hand above the head is 2.26 meters; from the ground to the top of the head is 1.83 meters; the difference is 0.43 meters.  From the ground to the navel is 1.13 meters; from the navel to the top of the head is 0.70 meters.  These dimensions are terms in a Fibonacci sequence:

    0.43 | 0.70 | 1.13 | 1.83
    The Modulor could be extended indefinitely in both directions to generate a sequence of preferred measurements that functioned in metric as well as feet-and-inches.  Systematic use of the Modulor, Le Corbusier asserted, would guarantee the creation of beautiful forms in harmony with nature and the human body.  The Modulor was a tool Le Corbusier believed could unite humanity, a goal he shared with his one-time collaborator, Otto Neurath.

    Cowper, The Anatomy of Humane Bodies, 2nd ed. (1737)
    Title Page

     A reader of The Anatomy of Humane Bodies is greeted with this title page, the publisher’s description of the book.  The volume’s illustrations and the exemplary status of the illustrators are noted first, a telling placement that not only indicates the enormous appeal visual diagrams of scientific information had at the time, but also signals the important function of pictures in the process of learning generally.
    The phrase “DRAWN AFTER THE LIFE” corresponds to the impulse toward veracity in both scientific disciplines and the fine arts.  Bidloo illustrated in front of his specimen, not unlike a portraitist observing and drawing in the presence of his subject, or “drawing from life.” His anatomical illustrations – split brains, ribboned skin, veins fanned out – were indeed drawn after the lifetime of the person: only a dead man could confess this much about the internal operations of living. Anatomical knowledge can only surface after the life. This phrase identifies the specimens as dead, and further emphasizes that death is predicated on having lived. Pressing ever more firmly on the distinction between the reader’s living and the subject’s deadness, “AFTER THE LIFE” sonically recalls “afterlife,” a state beyond both life and death, a term that potentially recharges the anatomized body with spirituality.

    Plate 27 | Upper Torso; back muscles exposed
    Plate 30 | Upper Torso; spine exposed; wrists bound

    Prior to the modern era, bodies of convicted criminals were most readily available, sentenced not only to death but also to dissection, a public punishment that served as a moralizing warning to citizens. The bound wrists in plate 30 recall a handcuffed convict, reminding us of her likely status as a criminal punished in life and in death. Used to keep her corpse in position for dissection and illustration, the bindings signal a body as intractable in death as it was in life.

    In her advancing dissection, the cadaver’s female gender remains intact through a system of aesthetic markers: a delicately turned wrist, manicured fingernails, and nipped-in waist. These qualities, however, are parenthetical to our understanding of the spine and musculature of the back; instead, they unnecessarily signal a gendered body. In this illustration, femininity becomes as much at issue as the vertebral column. Her long hair still braided and tucked into a drapery like a bridal veil, it feels as though we have encountered a woman at her bath; only, it isn’t a robe slipping down her curvaceous torso, but her skin peeling from her body. Dissection here is a type of undressing, a sexualizing aesthetic that foregrounds the erotic potential of any female body and presumes her obliging desire and complacency -- her incapacitation notwithstanding.

    Here, both the feminine body and female sexuality are revealed as unwieldy, requiring not only moral but physical control to correct her unacceptable behavior, and restrain her undisciplined body in both life and death. The reward for such control is medical knowledge, as well as the erotic pleasure of objectification that is embedded in the patriarchal gaze.

    Plate 67 | Muscles for Bending the Fingers and Carpus (Wrist)
    Seeking scientific accuracy and professional reliability, early anatomical studies required illustrators to work alongside dissectors.  In this drawings of the arm, the dissector’s tools are included – a wood block propping up the elbow, a bolt of cloth cradling the delicate wrist, and tiny scaffoldings lifting tendon from bone.  Making an aesthetic choice to present these practical necessities of dissection, the artist suggests that he – with his own hands – thoroughly and precisely captured the anatomist’s procedures that revealed the construction of the human hand.  Each block or pin is made to speak for the credibility of both the image and its maker, as if to say these hands were drawn accurately, down to the very tools that opened them.

    Plate 70 | Muscles which Extend the Carpus, Fingers, and Thumb
    The hand, flayed and pinned, is understood to be lifeless – clearly, this is the arm of a cadaver.  Its fingers, however, gently curve around the edge of the wooden board as if they are about to move.  With the highly-textured fabric draped over the shoulder, the image recalls slumber more than death, like a sleeping man with an arm poking out from under his bed sheets.  The aestheticization of the anatomized body calls into question distinctions between the living and the dead and how durable those distinctions might be, ultimately reminding us of the incomprehensibility of death in the mind of the living.

    Plate 71 | Muscles for Extending the Carpus and Fingers
    Pins and mounts might be expected in a dissection, but the book in plate 71 is a more curious object.  Hugging the edge of the book, the cadaver’s bicep nudges the cover slightly open, literally inserting itself as an anatomical specimen among its pages.  On the one hand, the book does the aesthetic work of concealing the gruesome site of amputation, as well as displays the pulled-out muscles; on the other, it symbolically links the cadaver’s body with text and the authoritative knowledge we associate with written language.

    The presence of the book itself is not so unlikely since anatomists depended upon previous anatomical texts as guides in their own dissections. Whether or how a book was used as a tool in Cowper’s lab remains ambiguous. Bidloo’s aesthetic decision to include it as part of the dissection record, however, can be seen as a claim for the legitimacy of illustrations as educational tools. Such drawings are intended to be “read” for specialized information. His artistic decisions convey information, as well as trigger aesthetic associations with learning and knowledge.  Is it ever possible to see a “scientific” image and not have an aesthetic re


    UAG Exhibition Featured in Heritage Preservation's Newsletter!

    The exhibition ReDiscover (September 2013) was featured in the Spring 2014 issue of CAPabilities!  


    • UAG
  • André-Guillaume Dezauche. Carte Botanique de France from Jean-Baptiste Lamarck and Augustin Pyramus de Candolle. Courtesy of the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation, Carnegie Mellon University.


    Natural History

    Drew Armstrong

    Formal Analysis and Plant Classification 

    Before the nineteenth century, the main challenge of studying plants was learning to identify different species and assign standard, scientific names.  This skill was essentially visual and developed through the inspection of specimens in carefully arranged botanical gardens.  As new plant species flooded European collections as a product of expanded trade networks and global exploration, scholars developed a number of distinct systems of classification to cope with the enlarged scope of botanical knowledge.  In the Encyclopédie, the comparison of the systems proposed by Tournefort and Linnaeus made this situation manifest to mid-eighteenth-century readers.

    By the late eighteenth-century, the figure whose name became synonymous with botanical taxonomy and nomenclature was the Swedish-born scholar Carl Linnaeus.  Focusing exclusively on the parts of plants involved in reproduction (or “fructification”), Linnaeus simplified the process of categorizing species based on the visual inspection of the flower and the number, proportion, shape and location of pistils and stamens.

    Linnaeus divided the plant kingdom into three “tribes” based on leaf types and further sub-divided these into families (trees, grasses, ferns, mosses) grouped by common characteristics or “distinguishing marks.” Families were further subdivided into Classes, Orders, Genera, Species, and Varieties.  Orders and classes were established only as an aid to memory; Linnaeus did not believe they reflected “natural” groupings.  Genera and species, by contrast, existed in nature: all species in the same genus shared the same configuration of sexual organs and each genus was marked by a single “essential characteristic” apparent “at first sight” to the practiced eye.  Species existed as communities of individuals that could reproduce.  Varieties differed only due to accidents or environmental factors that in no way altered the fundamental characteristics of a species.

    Books like this abridged, English edition of Linnaeus’s Philosophia Botanica explained his method to amateurs.  Rather than depicting individual plant species, Linnaeus included only a small number of simple line engravings illustrating all variants on the form of different parts of plants.  On one plate, for example, 62 leaf types are illustrated in schematic renderings and served to establish a systematic vocabulary of terms that could be applied to the description and naming of any plant.

    Cross-Section of the Andes

    Systems of botanical nomenclature are intended to be universal in their application and were based on visible characteristics that allowed species and genera to be distinguished from each other.  Of secondary concern to figures such as Linnaeus were issues such as the geographic distribution of plants, though since the Renaissance such data has been routinely gathered in encyclopedic compilations that aspire to provide thorough descriptions of individual species.  The use of representations such as maps and topographical cross-sections to show the relationship between geography, climate, altitude, and dominant plant species appears to be a major innovation around 1800.

    Cursory remarks about plant distribution are encountered in earlier works, especially in the writings of travelers.  Tournefort, who was sent on a mission to the Near East by the French administration in 1700, found that as he ascended Mount Ararat (Armenia), he encountered plant species typical of increasingly northerly parts of Europe.  The German naturalist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) made the same observation in the Andes during his travels to South America between 1799 and 1804.

    In 1805, Humboldt presented his “Essay on the Geography of Plants” at the Institut de France in Paris, illustrated with a single cross-section through the Andes.  In this famous image, Humboldt assembled information from many related disciplines into a single, graphically compelling diagram.  Rather than focusing on identifying individual species in isolation, Humboldt sought to understand the interrelation of phenomena and the impact of contextual variables such as climate, altitude, and soil types on the growth and distribution of life.

    In his best-known published work – Cosmos (1845-1862) – Humboldt aspired to present the reader with a complete “portrait of nature” and of man’s place within it.  The mid-nineteenth-century German school atlas exhibited here includes a cross-section of the Andes based directly on the work of Humboldt and was among the kinds of imagery that inspired Otto Neurath in his development of an international picture language.

    Botanical Distribution Map of France

    Publication of the third edition of Jean-Baptiste Lamarck’s important Flore française (1803-1815) was overseen by the Swiss-born botanist Augustin Pyramus de Candolle (1778-1841).  In addition to proposing a new system of plant classification, de Candolle included a novel “Botanical Map of France” (Carte botanique de la France).  Though thematic mapping was not completely new, this is an especially important early example of the technique being applied to natural history.  The purpose of the “Botanical Map of France” was two-fold: to graphically represent the extent of botanical knowledge at the time of publication and to define five geographic zones where distinct plant species dominated.

    Variations in the typography used for place names denote different levels of botanical knowledge. The author intended that the map indicate where botanists should concentrate their efforts:

    Capital letters (PARIS; MONTPELLIER; TURIN) indicate areas were plant species were well-documented in many published sources.
    Small capitals (Grenoble; Geneva) indicate sites described in a single published flora.

    Typography thus served to underline not only what parts of France were well documented by botanists, but also which cities lacked sophisticated scientific communities (for example, the major Atlantic port city of Bordeaux).

    The “Botanical Map of France” used five colors to indicate different plant zones, resulting in a novel method for grouping species based on environment rather than on the degree of similarity apparent in their visible parts.

    Like Humboldt’s exactly contemporary cross-sectional analysis of the Andes, the “Botanical Map of France” expanded plant studies to encompass the relationship between environment and distribution.  Variations in temperature and elevation were understood to be critical factors.  In order for the viewer to grasp the impact of altitude on plant distribution, elevations above sea-level are illustrated by dotted contour lines with heights indicated in meters.  The technique was borrowed from nautical cartography, which had long incorporated depth measurements on coastal maps.

    Species Distribution

    Rae Di Cicco

    In the early modern era, the heterogeneity of flora and fauna found in different parts of the world was seen in terms of God’s delight in variety – the diversity of species distributed around the globe precluded creative monotony.  Identifying the context of a specimen was less important than illustrating its unique characteristics.
    Earlier examples of atlases of natural history that include geographic specificity in their illustrations of species do so by including visual clues in the backgrounds, such as regionally specific architecture.  The botanical illustrations by Johann Christoph Volkamer and Robert John Thornton exhibited at the entrance to the Hall Gallery are exemplary of this technique.
    Theorizing about the relationship between species and their environments, George Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon (1707–1788) made the challenging claim that animals and plants developed characteristics suited to their particular habitats and had the ability to mutate, or degenerate in Buffon’s terms, to better adapt to their surroundings.  Although he included maps in his important Natural History, General and Particular [Histoire naturelle, générale et particulière] (1749–1788), Buffon continued to contextualize specimens by including landscape views to indicate specific geographic locations.  In the volume from the English edition exhibited in the adjacent case, the geographic specificity of the “Turkish Dog” is suggested by the silhouette of Hagia Sophia (Istanbul) in the background (see image at right).
    While portraits of specimens containing geographic markers allowed scientists to evoke environmental context on a case-by-case basis, distribution maps allowed for the comparison of several species – their populations, their characteristics, and their territory – simultaneously.  Plant and animal distribution maps illustrated the interaction of species on a macro level.  With the use of this new method of visualization, natural scientists were able to analyze their subjects from a new perspective, shifting the focus to comparative studies of species location, population size, historical migration, and adaptation.

    Bulliard, Dictionnaire élémentaire de botanique (1798)
    Lamarck , Encyclopédie méthodique (1782)

    Allison McCann
    No display on botanical categorization would be complete without a mention of Carl Linnaeus, often considered the father of modern botany.  Linnaeus devised his categorization method around the sexual systems of plants, counting and noting the configurations of the stamens and pistols.  Prior to his development, plants had primarily been identified and categorized according to external factors, such the shape, color, and configuration of leaves and petals.  In his Dictionnaire élémentaire de botanique first published in 1783, Pierre Bulliard (1742-1793) furnishes an example of this earlier method with a table titled “Methode de Tournefort.”  This table shows how Joseph Pitton de Tournefort advocated for a system of classification according to the external properties of flowers and leaves.  In contrast, Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744-1829) utilizes the Linnaean system in his volumes on botany for the Encyclopédie méthodique as a means of describing plant species. 

    To the left, the “Analysis of the Sexual System of Carolus von Linnaeus” by Robert John Thornton (1768-1837) offers a schematic illustration of the Linnaean classificatory system.  On the far right of this chart, a column shows cork and pin models of the various stamen and pistol configurations that Linnaeus had identified.  The reproduction above this chart, a page from Jean-Louis Marie Poiret’s Leçons de flore, shows yet another visualization of the Linnaean sexual system.  Poiret collaborated with Lamarck on the Encyclopédie méthodique and ultimately took over the project.

    Classification and Plant Anatomy

    Allison McCann

    Each botanical atlas on display here was published between the late-seventeenth to early-nineteenth centuries in Europe – an era that spans the Age of Enlightenment and the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. The modernization of the Western world set many scientific changes into motion, and new systems for ordering and classifying the natural world were chief among them. 

    This new modernizing worldview was a striking departure from the pre-modern era that preceded it. Broadly construed, medieval understandings of the natural world had once sought to find heavenly corollaries to natural phenomena. The “natural sciences” once took a vastly different shape than they do today, and the study of flora and fauna was deeply enmeshed in biblical allegory. The books on view here offer a new conception of the natural world as a complex yet knowable natural sphere that can be ordered and systematized through man-made schema. These atlases represent a significant contribution to this new schematization of scientific understanding, as they are all concerned with breaking down specimens into their component parts and reordering them according to universal principles.

    Not all of the botanists who contributed to these volumes used microscopy to create their images, but they all took a “micro” view when studying their specimens. Each took a focused view of individual plant parts, often highlighting segments that are invisible when the plant is viewed in its entirety. While the medieval herbalist had considered various plant specimens as a whole, these botanists considered their subjects part-by-part. By doing so, they were able to make novel comparisons among species, and broaden modern understanding of biological similarity.

    Malpighi, Opera Omnia (1687)
    Poiret, Leçons de flore (1819)

    Allison McCann

    Other naturalists worked in the spirit, if not the letter, of the Linnaean system, considering specimens according to the configuration of their parts, rather than by the properties of the whole.  By isolating and describing individual parts, botanist organized, classified, and compared species in novel ways.  When isolated and magnified, the elements of the specimens became de-contextualized and abstract, allowing the scientist to extrapolate from each specimen and to compare and categorize various genera and species at a macro level.

    Marcello Malpighi (1628-1694), whose work is on display to the right, found essential similarities between the respiratory organs of certain plants and low-order insects.  Jean-Louis Marie Poiret (1755-1834), whose visualization of the Linnaean system is reproduced on a wall in this gallery, also produced a table shown in this case that demonstrates the value of counting hairs, thorns, glands, and other tiny plant components.  Such microscopic cross-species comparisons became the groundwork for thinking about the mutability of species and evolutionary change.

    De Candolle, Limites polaires de quelques espéces (1855)
    Scharff, The Lion (Felis leo) with the Geographical Distribution (1907)

    Rae Di Cicco

    The works on display here show how natural scientists used distribution mapping to propel the study of botany and zoology into new areas previously difficult to investigate.  One of two maps included in Alphonse de Candolle’s (1806-1893) Géographie botanique raisonnée (1855) reproduced here, shows how relationships between different species and geography were represented by distribution mapping.
    De Candolle’s map compares the northern limits of several different species found across Europe.  The color-coded borderlines allow the viewer to compare the territories of species grouped by type – annuals in red, perennials in black, and ligneous in blue.  Like the “Botanical Map of France” produced by his father and included in the Front Gallery, de Candolle’s map plotted observations gleaned from dozens of authors and revealed gaps in knowledge about the extent of the habitats of individual species.
    In contrast to de Candolle’s comparison of several species at a single point in time, Robert Francis Scharff (1858-1934) uses distribution maps to aid in the study of a single species across time.  In Scharff’s map of the lion, the current territory inhabited by the species felis leo, is indicated in black, while the dotted area indicates land inhabited by the lion at some point in the past.  Comparing the changing habitat of species over time provides a visually striking statement about the impacts of environment on survival.

    Johnston, Physical Atlas of Natural Phenomena (1856)

    Rae Di Cicco
    Alexander Keith Johnston’s (1804-1871) Physical Atlas of Natural Phenomena (1856) is the first English atlas devoted to thematic maps, maps that include data about natural and human phenomena such as plant, animal and language distribution.  Johnston’s atlas is based on the German cartographer Heinrich Berghaus’s Physikalischer Atlas which was intended to serve as a supplement to Alexander von Humboldt’s Cosmos.  As shown in the Front Gallery, Humboldt’s pioneering work on botanical geography in the first half of the nineteenth century contributed to the development of new approaches for representing natural history.
    The maps displayed here show two styles of distribution maps – the zoological map uses lines to indicate the territorial borders of carnivorous species while the botanical map employs shading to distinguish the regions where particular types of grains grow.  As a child, Otto Neurath perused the German version of this atlas in his father’s library and later described it as a major stimulus to his thinking about visual communication.

    Volkamer, Aranzo Distorto (1708)
    Thornton, Large Flowering Sensitive Plant (1807)
    Thornton, Blue Egyptian Water Lily (1807)

    Rae Di Cicco

    Before the use of distribution maps, authors frequently noted the location where botanical or zoological specimens were found in the text of their compendia.  Some authors, including those on display here, chose to indicate geographic specificity through landscape cues, included in the background of illustrations of botanical specimens.

    The English physician Robert John Thornton (1768-1837), writing for an audience of both serious scientists and laymen, says of his choice to include background elements specific to a particular region: “Each scenery is appropriated to the subject. … In the large-flowering MIMOSA, first discovered on the mountains of Jamaica, you have the humming birds of that country, and one of the aborigines struck with astonishment at the peculiarities of the plant.”  In addition to including geographically specific animals and humans, Thornton frequently uses architecture to indicate a specific locale, such as the palace at Aboukir, Egypt in the image of the Blue Egyptian Water Lily.  The German botanist  Johann Christoph Volkamer (1644-1720) similarly included the architecture of a particular town in Italy where the citrus Aranzo Distorto can be found.


    HAAARCH!!! 2014

    Join us for the fourth installment of HAAARCH!!! a showcase of undergraduate research, creative work, and achievement in the History of Art and Architecture Department and the Architectural Studies Program. This forum provides students the opportunity to exhibit, present and promote their research and experiential learning activities. The event will also feature an exhibition of creative work that was undertaken in departmental courses.

    HAAARCH!!! Monday, March 24, 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm
    Frick Fine Arts Cloister and University Art Gallery

    Further information about this year's program can be found here:

    • HAAARCH!!! 2014
    • Undergraduate Work
    • UAG
  • Vittore Carpaccio, Arrival of the Ambassadors

    Vittore Carpaccio, Arrival of the Ambassadors, 1498, oil on canvas, 275 x 589 cm, Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice, Italy.


    Guided Tours of the Lochoff Cloister

    Since September 2013, undergraduate educators at the UAG have been offering free guided tours of the Nicholas Lochoff paintings in the Frick Fine Arts Building. In the Fall semester, educators talked about the Lochoff paintings in terms of conservation and preservation, and linked their tour to the gallery exhibition "ReDiscover: the Collection Revealed". This semester, the tours offer a different approach. One educator is even offering a tour in Mandarin-Chinese! This is a whole new way to look at the Lochoff paintings and think about how they fit within our building!

    • Agency
    • Visual Knowledge
    • Undergraduate Work
    • UAG