Non-Euclidean Space, Movement and Astronomy in Modern Art: Alexander Calder’s Mobiles and Ben Nicholson’s Reliefs
Courtauld Institute of Art, London, Great Britain
Published online: 5 September 2013
John Keats once wrote that ‘there is no such thing as time and space’ rather, believing that time and space are mental constructs that are subject to a variety of forms and as diverse as the human mind. In the 1920s through the 1930s, modern physics in many ways supported this idea through the various philosophical writings on the Theory of General Relativity to the masses by scientists such as Arthur Eddington and Albert Einstein. These new concepts of modern physics fundamentally changed our understanding of time and space and had substantial philosophical implications, which were absorbed by modern artists resulting in the 1936 Dimensionist Manifesto. Seeking to internalize the developments of modern science within modern art, this manifesto was widely endorsed by the most prominent figures of the avant-garde such as Marcel Duchamp, Jean Arp, Naum Gabo, Joan Miró, László Moholy-Nagy, Wassily Kandinsky and Alexander Calder. Of particular interest to this manifesto was the new concept of the fourth-dimension, which in many ways revolutionized the arts. Importantly, its interpretation varied widely in the artistic community, ranging from a purely physical four-dimensional space, to a kinetic concept of space in which space and time are linked, to a metaphysical interest in a space that exists beyond the material realm. The impact of modern science and astronomy on avant-garde art is currently a bourgeoning area of research with considerable implications to our rethinking of substantial artistic figures of this era. Through a case study of Alexander Calder’s Mobiles and Ben Nicholson’s Reliefs, this paper explores how these artworks were informed by an interest in modern science.
© Owned by the authors, published by EDP Sciences, 2013
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