BAR HARBOR, MAINE — Art historian Linda Seidel, Ph.D., will discuss late medieval and renaissance artists’ attention to the natural world and their exploration of its “secrets” and effects at an Art Meets Science Café to be held at the MDI Biological Laboratory’s Kinne Library at 5 p.m. on Monday, August 1, 2016. The title of her illustrated talk will be “Bodies in Nature: Shadows and Reflections in 15th Century Painting.”
Using Albrecht Dürer’s watercolor, “View of Arco,” a rocky outcrop topped by a citadel near Lake Garda, Italy, as a superb example of landscape portrayal, Seidel will talk about what the German artist learned from one of his predecessors, the Flemish painter Jan van Eyck, whose interest in the natural world led him to introduce topographical details and previously unimagined visual effects into his work in the 1420s and 1430s.
“Attention to the rendering of landscape brought with it a profound awareness of the interaction between bodies and nature,” says Seidel. “The materials of painting had to change in order to explore this relationship. In my talk we will look at a range of innovations in the art of the 15th century, seeing ways in which the visual arts served as a vehicle for scientific inquiry as well as aesthetic discovery.”
The academic interests of Seidel, who is the former Hanna Holborn Gray Professor in Art History at the University of Chicago, include pivotal figures and moments in the history and historiography of medieval art. Her fascination with the reflections and transparencies that were the hallmark of the earliest European oil paintings has led her to surprising insights into connections between painting, science and religion.
The artistic innovations she examines launched a tradition that can be traced through time to the American landscape painter Frederic Church, whose work first stimulated interest in Mount Desert Island as a tourist destination in the 19th century.
Seidel, who is retired from the University of Chicago, lives in New York City and is a summer resident of Hancock County. Her late husband, Dr. Michael Field, was a visiting scientist and trustee of the MDI Biological Laboratory.
The Art Meets Science Cafés are offered by the MDI Biological Laboratory in fulfillment of its mission to increase public engagement with science. The cafés follow the format of the popular MDI Science Cafés, also offered through the laboratory, in which short presentations are followed by lively, informal discussion.
The Art Meets Science Cafés are being held in conjunction with the MDI Biological Laboratory’s 2016 Art Meets Science exhibit, entitled “A Fresh Field of Life: Artists, Naturalists and the Vision for Acadia.” The exhibit includes observations by artists on nature — from Acadia’s scenery to the microscopic world of molecular biology.
Art Meets Science Cafés will alternate with MDI Science Cafés at the MDI Biological Laboratory every Monday evening from June 20 to Sept. 19, except for Labor Day. The cafés will take place at 5 p.m. at the laboratory’s Kinne Library. The 2016 Art Meets Science exhibit will be on view prior to the cafés starting at 4:15 p.m.
The cafés are free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be available. For more information on the cafés and on the exhibit, please visit mdibl.org/events/. The next Art Meets Science Café will be held on Monday, Aug. 15 at 5 p.m. The speaker will be Carl Little, who will talk about his new book, “Art of Acadia,” written with his brother, David.