Avant-garde Science, Avant-garde Art:

The Artistic Response to the Scientific Revolution of the 19th Century
Professors Michael J. Lewis and David Hewitt

This course is co-sponsored by the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. The lectures will be given in the Historic Landmark Building auditorium located at 118 N. Broad Street.


  1. Tuesday, January 29, 2013 - The Ordering of Nature
  2. Tuesday, February 5, 2013 - Geological Time: The Challenge of Fossils

  3. Tuesday, February 12, 2013 - Insights from Exploration
  4. Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - Architecture between Nature and Industry

  5. Tuesday, February 26, 2013 - Science and the Museum
  6. Tuesday, March 5, 2013 - Art in the Mechanical Universe

Download the complete syllabus here.

The decoding of the human genome is widely regarded as research at the frontier of 21st century science, just as splitting the atom was in the last century.  But in the nineteenth century, the borders of knowledge clearly lay outdoors, and field biology and field geology were the most dynamic sciences, pulling knowledge forward into unknown lands, and changing the way the world was seen, even as the world itself was changing.  

This course, a discourse between an art historian and a biologist, will look at the way in which nineteenth-century artists and architects responded to the insights of the natural sciences.  Among the topics to be examined are the Hudson River School; images of natural wonders (Niagara, Yosemite, the Andes); the artistic response to newly discovered flora and fauna; John Ruskin and the use of geology in architecture; the role of science in art education, from Charles Willson Peale to Thomas Eakins; and the use of botanical imagery by Philadelphia architects such as Frank Furness and Frank Miles Day. 

This six-week lecture course will take place in the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and will also make use of its building and collections.  Two optional tours will be scheduled for Saturdays during the course—an architectural tour of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and City Hall looking at their sculptural programs and use of botanical imagery, and a gallery tour of the Academy looking at the treatment of science and nature in selected works.  There will be a short, optional research paper.

This course is full.

To be placed on the waiting list, please call 215-763-6529 x23.





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