The Art of Science: Hubble Space Telescope Aesthetics

Images Compared: Albert Bierstadt's Storm in the Rocky Mountains, Mt Rosalie & NASA's Small Magellanic Cloud (Hubble Space Telescope)

“Just as Romantic artists sought to evoke feelings of awe and wonder — what philosopher Immanuel Kant called the ‘sublime’ — today’s astronomers seek to create a similar response with Hubble images. By presenting cosmic clouds of gas and dust as analogous to dramatic landscapes found here on Earth, the Hubble images encourage viewers to perceive the cosmos as familiar and enticing, while also retaining a sense of that it is alien and overpowering.”

“The connections to the 19th-century paintings and photographs also go beyond appearance and an evocation of the sublime. The works of Moran, Bierstadt and others symbolise exploration and the frontier. Many of the artists and photographers accompanied scientific surveys of the American west, and their work was used to promote further scientific study of the region. In many ways, the Hubble images have a similar function today. They promise the possibility of new frontiers, new places to discover, new worlds to know.”

New Scientist’s CultureLab blog features a delightful brief interview (by Shanta Barley) with Elizabeth Kessler, assistant professor of art and liberal studies at Ursinus College, on The Artistic Choices Lurking Within Hubble Images. (Kessler is presently engaged in writing a book on “the aesthetics of Hubble Space Telescope images and their relationship to Romantic paintings and photographs.)

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Published in: on May 2, 2010 at 2:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

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