Life is Art, Art is Life

Before the Age of the Camera, All Scientists Drew Beautifully

Until the camera was invented people had to draw if they wanted to remember things. When they went traveling, they couldn’t just snap a quick photo, they would make a quick sketch instead, or spend a few hours gazing at a landscape and drawing it carefully.

A person 200 or 300 years ago wasn’t considered well educated unless they could draw, and dance, write poetry, and play a musical instrument. All scientists had to draw well or they couldn’t accurately record their discoveries. Robert Hooke, the brilliant British scientist and architect, drew this picture of a flea, observed under a microscope which he built himself. Galileo made many drawings of the planets he observed through his telescope. Louis Pasteur and many others were surprisingly good at drawing. How many scientists these days can say the same thing?





6 comments on “Before the Age of the Camera, All Scientists Drew Beautifully

  1. Pingback: A Lesson On How To Draw Through The Ages « PrefacMe

  2. Josh C.
    June 27, 2012

    I stumbled upon your blog and found my way to this post. It’s funny you mention that, before pictures became mainstream, scientists used to have superior drawing abilities. This seems to hold true throughout a few different sectors of technical documentation. My interest is vintage bicycles. In the early part of the 1900’s, a gentleman by the name of Daniel Rebour was creating the same type of distinct, detailed and beautiful drawings as Robert Hooke, mentioned above.
    For a little more info, check out this blog post (not my own) here: http://janheine.wordpress.com/2012/05/22/daniel-rebour

    Great blog. Keep up the good work!

    • differentstrokes4art
      June 28, 2012

      Hi Josh,
      Thank you for your great comment! This is really interesting. Drawing is so important in so many ways. When you draw something, you know it inside and out in a much deeper way than if you just look at it or take a photo.
      A friend of mine once said that unless you can actually make a chair, you’ll never be able to improve on the design of chairs, because you can’t understand how all the parts fit together and how they function. Drawing is the first step to that deeper understanding. One can see that Daniel Rebour loved bicycles!

  3. Andrew Lloyd
    June 27, 2012

    I went to a book festival recently (http://www.charleston.org.uk/) and heard a talk about Captain RF Scott (of the Antarctic) and George Mallory, the climber who died on Everest in 1924. In the talk, it emerged that Scott, a naval officer had, like all naval officers of the time, been required to learn how to paint and draw, as this was the best and perhaps only way of recording things.

  4. Andrew Lloyd
    June 29, 2012

    Thank you. I liked the comment at the bottom by a Sandra Chauntry (?), who comepares her sketching with digital photos. I went to a quiet coastal town recently, called Aldeburgh and sketched a watchtower on the beach for about 45 minutes, while Sachiko window-shopped. I loved doing it and it does feel quite different to a photo. I really had to look.

    Curiously, another talk at that same festival was by Annie Leibovitz, who explained that one of her ways out of her recent financial upheavals had been through using a simple digital camera for the first time and rediscovering the joy of seeing in a new way. So, there are many opinions.

    Equally, I went to a David Hockney exhibition recently (I sound quite the art buff don’t I? Don’t be fooled.) where he’d produced an enormous body of work in painting his native Yorkshire through different seasons. There were some beautiful charcol studies of fallen logs. His draughtsmanship is amazing, but he’s also worked stuff up via an iPad.

    Finally, a retired art teacher I know, who goes to the same art class as me reckons that while his best students pursued many different career paths after graduating in fine art, the ones who did better, no matter what the career, were the ones who could draw well. Interesting.

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This entry was posted on March 28, 2012 by in IDEAS.

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