Friday, July 31, 2009

Here Comes the Sun

For the July 2009 Art Poll By Bob, I got scientific and asked, “Which of these science-related works of art make you wish you had paid more attention in high school lab?” In a runaway, Joseph Wright of Derby's An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump (1768) nearly lapped the field with 17 votes. Albrecht Durer's Melencolia I (1514) and Thomas Eakins' The Gross Clinic (1875) tied for second with 9 votes each. Leonardo da Vinci's Vitruvian Man (1487) came in fourth with 8 votes. William Blake's Newton (1795) won 5 votes to edge out Jacques-Louis David's Portrait of Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier and His Wife (1788) and Erich Mendelsohn's Einstein Tower (1920-1924) with 4 votes each. Charles Willson Peale's The Artist in His Museum (1822) with 2 votes and Thomas Eakins' Portrait of Professor Henry A. Rowland (1897) and Charles Willson Peale's Exhuming the First American Mastodon (1806) with 1 vote each rounded out the field. Thanks to everyone who participated in my art experiment.

For the August Art Poll By Bob, to celebrate our annual trek to the New Jersey shore for fun, sun, and surf, I’m asking the following, “Which of these classic paintings of sunlight lights up your life the most?”:

Caspar David Friedrich, Woman before the Rising Sun (aka, Woman before the Setting Sun) (1818-1820)

Edward Hopper, Morning Sun (1952)

Frida Kahlo, Sun and Life (1947)

Henri Matisse, Luxe, Calme et Volupté (1904)

Michelangelo, Creation of the Sun, Moon, and Planets from the Sistine Chapel Ceiling (1511)

Claude Monet, Impression, Sunrise (1872)

Edvard Munch, The Sun From the Oslo University Aula Decoration (1911-1916)

J.M.W. Turner, The Angel, Standing in the Sun (1846)

J.M.W. Turner, Regulus (1828-1837)

Vincent Van Gogh, Olive Trees with Yellow Sky and Sun (1889)

So, put on your shades, slather on some sunscreen, and vote!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Body Shop

Rachel Spencer’s Financial Times review of Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfection of Form at the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence, Italy caught my eye last week. The Galleria dell’Accademia, home to Michelangelo’s David and other great sculptures by the master, draws a very clear, very distinct line between Michelangelo and Mapplethorpe’s approaches to the depiction of the human body. The idea itself seems fantastic. Unfortunately, according to Spencer, the execution fails to match the promise of that idea. Only a few works by Mapplethorpe appear near any of the Michelangelos, with the rest of Mapplethorpe’s work screened off in another part of the museum, as if they didn’t want the mainstream, David-loving tourists to accidentally see anything by Mapplethorpe. “Such an impoverished comparison merely teases at the possibility of a shared aesthetic,” Spencer laments, and I have to agree. Mapplethorpe’s Derrick Cross (above, from 1985) presents the human form at the peak of muscularity with all the unreality and symbolism of anything by Michelangelo, with the added twist that Mapplethorpe’s subjects actually existed in the physical world, whereas Michelangelo’s flexed and twisted only in his mind.

Spencer suggests Piero della Francesca as a better classical analogue for Mapplethorpe. She argues that Mapplethorpe’s dispassionate, almost mathematical approach to subjects such as Thomas (above, from 1987) follows the example of Piero more than that of the passionate, “agony and the ecstacy” Michelangelo. I’m not a big fan of the either/or dichotomy of passion version precision. There is certainly a great deal of precision and balance in all of Michelangelo’s figures at their most passionate. The David sculpture at the Galleria dell’Accademia sneers with defiance, but he stands balanced and almost symmetrically on two sturdy legs. Conversely, Mapplethorpe’s figures stretch themselves to the point of almost breaking to achieve his desired poses, but the rippling muscles and taut ligaments also speak of the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s that rippled through and stretched the gay community to its limits. I see great passion in Derrick Cross, Thomas, and other photographs of Mapplethorpe from this period when such “perfect” bodies symbolized the breaking down of gay men’s bodies by disease and the failure of the American body politic to set aside prejudice and come to their aid.

Is the unspoken issue of this Mapplethorpe—Michelangelo pairing the artists’ shared sexual orientation? Michelangelo’s sexuality remains a topic of debate for scholars, but works such as Prigione Barbuto (above, 1530), one of Michelangelo’s unfinished sculptures of slaves, make more sense when seen in a homoerotic way. Sadly, Mapplethorpe remains the untouchable third rail of American art history for many museums, even twenty years after his death by AIDS. Perhaps only in Europe could Mapplethorpe be allowed to stand beside masters of the Western heritage, whereas American art continues to segregate Mapplethorpe and other homosexual artists into a defined zone separate from the mainstream. “Here, the absence of sex shots haunts the show like Banquo’s Ghost,” Spencer writes of Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfection of Form’s lacking of Mapplethorpe’s more notoriously explicit photographs. Perhaps the best way to exorcise that erotic ghost once and for all is to allow it to walk freely and be seen, not only for better understanding Mapplethorpe but also for better understanding Michelangelo.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Top Ten List

I'll be back from hiatus shortly in some form. Thanks for continuing to visit and comment while I'm getting back in the swing of things.

I was shocked (in a good way) by the number of people who continued to visit here despite the lack of new content. I'm not sure how much it played a role in that traffic, but I would like to take this chance to thank the nice people at The Art History Blog for nominating Art Blog By Bob for one of the Top Ten Art History and Museum Blogs at I'm horrible at keeping up on the people who link here or mention me elsewhere, so I both thank and apologize to anyone else I might have missed. (If you've seen Art Blog By Bob mentioned somewhere else or if that's how you came to this site, please let me know in the comments.)

Semi-regular programming will recommence shortly. Thanks, again.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Brief Hiatus

Because of family responsibilities and schoolwork, Art Blog By Bob has been and will continue to be on temporary hiatus until most likely the beginning of August. Until then, please feel free to wander through the archives and to picture me living the life of a scholar and praying to the patron saint of scholars, Saint Jerome, shown above in Albrecht Durer’s Saint Jerome in his Study (from 1514). Enjoy your summer!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Missing Ingredient

I wonder how much Woody Allen knows about Frida Kahlo, especially after seeing Allen’s 2008 romantic comedy Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Javier Bardem as the Spanish painter and Penélope Cruz as his passionate, often violent, ex-wife who also paints and actually greatly influences her ex-husband’s artistic vision, which he grudgingly admits, could be modern-day stand-ins for Frida and her ex, Diego Rivera. Born July 6, 1907, Kahlo said that she experienced two great accidents in her life: the 1929 bus accident that almost killed her and left her in agony for the rest of her life and the day she met Diego, who would break her heart countless times with philandering and other cruelties. Kahlo painted Frida and Diego (above) in 1931, when she still was “Mrs. Rivera” and devoted herself to Rivera’s career at the expense of her own. The scale of the two figures shows just how Kahlo saw herself as a tiny satellite orbiting the giant world of Diego Rivera. Kahlo’s feet seem to rise from the earth, as if Diego’s personal gravity could pull her into his orbit. In Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Bardem and Cruz’s characters strike a different pose, with the two standing as equals and, perhaps, with Cruz/Frida as the main figure at times. It’s as if Allen wants to rewrite the Frida/Diego story as it should have been told.

My favorite painting by Kahlo is her The Two Fridas (above, from 1939). I believe it’s the most accurate depiction of how we psychically fracture ourselves at moments of emotional stress. When Diego’s infidelities split them apart first emotionally and then legally in divorce, Frida’s life was torn in two. The strange cardiovascular system Frida creates to link the two Fridas in the painting shows how she wants to keep herself together but can’t ignore the reality of how her heart has been violated. I remember seeing this painting at the PMA during the Frida show last year and being stunned by the pain radiating from it. That tour was the first time The Two Fridas had ever been shown outside of Mexico, which made it even more memorable for me. In Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Allen tries to reconnect Bardem and Cruz’s characters through the Cristina character, as if all Diego and Frida needed was a ready and willing Scarlett Johansson to provide the missing ingredient to spice up their life. Frida certainly turned to relationships with women in her life to find something missing in her relationship with Diego, but I doubt that a threesome would have answered the deeper, lingering questions between them.

Frida showed just how much Diego lingered in and weighed upon her mind in Diego on my Mind (above, from 1943). Kahlo, who made such great use of her body in numerous other self-portraits, hides her physicality completely in this painting. All you see is an oval of her face, with a tiny portrait of Diego set in the center of her forehead, like a third eye. For Frida, Diego was the third eye through which she viewed the world. In 1949’s Diego and I, Frida paints a tearful self-portrait with another Diego on her brow, but this time the “third eye” has a third eye of its own. Frida gave Diego a third eye to symbolize his “wisdom,” as she saw it, but couldn’t paint herself with the same wisdom, instead making Diego her “third eye” and the source of all her wisdom. In Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Bardem’s Diego-esque painter eventually acknowledges Cruz/Kahlo as the source of his vision or wisdom, turning the Diego/Frida soap opera on its head. Of course, Diego acknowledged Frida’s influence stridently after her death, but in life he always maintained the upper hand, at least in the mind of the public. I’d love to ask Woody if he had Frida and Diego in mind when he wrote Vicky Cristina Barcelona, but even given the chance, I’m not sure if Woody would admit to rewriting art history in that way.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Madman Across the Water

In May 1809, William Blake set up an exhibition of his works in a room above his brother’s hosiery shop in the house in which he was born and raised. Few people came to see the sixteen oddly beautiful works hung there, fewer picked up the Descriptive Catalogue Blake has written and printed to help explain his works, and even fewer bought anything. The sole review of the show published in The Examiner called the paintings “the wild effusions of a distempered brain.” Visitors straggled through as late as June 1810 to see the works. The length of the exhibition, however, marked not public interest but Blake’s own disappointment and wish to forget the hanging entirely. Two centuries later, the Tate Britain has recreated Blake’s failed show in an exhibition and Martin Myrone resurrects Blake’s weird and wonderful catalogue in William Blake’s Seen in My Visions: A Descriptive Catalogue of Pictures. Through Myrone’s scholarly introduction and editing of Blake’s own effusions, we can travel back in time to see works such as Blake’s The Spiritual Form of Nelson Guiding Leviathan (above, from 1805-1809) as Blake’s contemporaries may have seen them. Myrone paints Blake’s 1809 fiasco as a turning point in the poet-artists’ career in which the Blake we have come to know and love today is seen as just one of the many possible “Blakes” that could have come down to us.

Blake always thought on a cosmic level, and this exhibition aimed no lower. In his introduction, Myrone calls Blake’s 1809 exhibition “not merely a celebration of an artist’s work, a straightforward retrospective of a career, but an agenda-setting, forcefully polemical intervention into the art world, and an enterprise aimed at reforming not only the tastes of the public, but their morality as well, through the revival of the ‘grand style’ in art.” In Blake’s black and white world of art and morality, Michelangelo, Raphael, and Durer emerge as the heroes of the grand style, whereas Titian, Rubens, Correggio, and Rembrandt represent the weaker elements that have cheapened art and drained the energy from public morality. Blake specifically challenged the art and morality of his time by “calling out” artists, including one-time friend Thomas Stothard, by interpreting subjects in his own “grand style” way. Blake’s The Canterbury Pilgrims (above, from 1808) challenges the more conventional rendering of Stothard by going bigger and bolder and attempting to convey the human drama embedded in Chaucer’s famous work. “He who does not imagine in stronger and better lineaments, and in stronger and better light than his perishing mortal eye can see,” Blake writes in his catalogue, “does not imagine at all.” Anyone who loves Blake’s almost superhuman confidence in his poetry will eat up similar brashness in the catalogue. When Blake decries other artists “laboring to destroy Imaginative power, by means of that infernal machine, called Chairo Oscuro,” it’s easy to forget that Caravaggio, the king of chiaroscuro, languished in near obscurity in the 1800s, remembered mostly through his imitators. I also wonder what Blake’s friend, Henry Fuseli, himself a fan of chiaroscuro’s effects, may have thought of Blake’s “infernal” judgment. Blake never pulled his punches. Seen in My Visions allows you to step in the ring with the poetic pugilist for as many rounds as you can stand.

Of the sixteen works shown in 1809, eleven survive, including Blake’s The Soldiers Casting Lots for Christ's Garments (above, from 1800). The survivors show Blake’s work in tempera on canvas and watercolor on paper. Blake disdained oil painting as a symptom of art’s decline. Fresco, the medium for Michelangelo and Raphael, was forever, and Blake desired nothing less than eternity. In 1809, Blake still imagined a place in the mainstream art world for himself. None of the works shown in 1809 relate to the poetry Blake was writing and would later illustrate himself, gaining the fame he now enjoys posthumously. Chaucer, Thomas Gray, and the Bible provided the subject matter for Blake’s art. I found it difficult imagining a “Blake” different than the “Blake” I know so well, but Myrone convincingly argues for the possibility of at least one “Blake” that could have been. One of the lost works, titled Ancient Britons and standing at 3 meters high by 4 meters long, broke all the rules of what a “Blake” is known as. “A privately commissioned painting on a serious historic subject, painted in a severely classical style, full of patriot feeling, and completed on a very large scale,” Myrone describes Ancient Britons from the surviving clues. “If the picture had survived, our image of Blake might be quite radically different: he would be placed even more readily in the company of [James] Barry and Fuseli than he is now.” Would such a “Blake” be better or worse? If Ancient Britons were to reemerge from obscurity tomorrow, would the familiar “Blake” of soaring visions and stubborn independence be lost for good?

In the end, however, despite dreams of a parallel universe in which Blake and James Barry sit cozily beside each other in a prosaic list of painters of the period, we are left with the only Blake we know. After the failure of the 1809 show, Blake turned his back on the conventional art world. He participated in only one more exhibition in 1812. When Sir Joshua Reynolds, official tastemaker of Blake’s time and gatekeeper for artistic success, published his lectures, Blake annotated them with the bitter marginalia of a outsider with no hope of finding his way in. Seen in My Visions shows Blake at his visionary best, especially in works such as Christ in the Sepulchre, Guarded by Angels (above, from 1805), but also at his pragmatic best, wishing for a way to become an insider without compromising his principles so as to better art and society from within the machinery itself. Even Blake knew that access to the inner workings of the system was the only way to change it. Denied the chance even to touch the levers of power, Blake forged a different path, lighting a long fuse for an artistic and philosophical bomb that would take decades to detonate and contribute to change. Even two centuries later, Blake explodes in our imaginations like few other artists. The exhibition and catalogue Seen in My Visions shows that Blake didn’t begin as a bomb thrower into the future.

[Many thanks to Tate Publishing for providing me with a review copy of William Blake’s Seen in My Visions: A Descriptive Catalogue of Pictures, edited by Martin Myrone.]

Monday, July 6, 2009

Graphic Content

One of the many joys of reading Vincent Van Gogh’s letters is his frequent references to other artists he admired. There are, of course, references to Millais, Corot, and others we still know well today, but it is the lesser-known names, the forgotten gems, that make you scour the internet for more. The English illustrator and painter Frank Holl appears in no less than eleven of Van Gogh’s letters. Born July 4, 1845, Holl drew Van Gogh’s attention with his graphic work in the socially conscious newspaper The Graphic founded by artist and social reformer William Luson Thomas. In the days before photographic reproduction in periodicals, magazines and newspapers relied on the talents of illustrators to capture the public’s eye and, in the case of The Graphic, the public’s heart and mind. While working for The Graphic, Holl painted such socially conscious works as Her Firstborn (above, from 1876), which shows dramatically and, yes, graphically the funeral procession of a family burying a young child. The poses and expressions of the figures are operatic in their emotion. You could almost hear a Puccini aria playing in the distance. In the Victorian age, infant and childhood mortality remained an agonizing reality. Holl’s poor British subjects and Van Gogh’s Dutch peasants both knew that reality well and both artists tapped into that emotion for their art.

In 1878, Thomas assigned Holl to visit Newgate Prison and create illustrations to accompany a story. In response, Holl painted Newgate: Committed for Trial (above, from 1878), which captures the pathos of a woman and child visiting the husband and father, respectively, held prisoner there. Holl actually painted this work inside Newgate prison to get all the physical and emotional details just right. The debtor’s prison remained another harsh reality for Victorians in England as the gap between the haves and the have nots widened to a chasm. For the upper classes in England, such sights were usually reserved for the lower classes. Holl brashly brings the dark side of British society in the 1870s to those in power by first painting such works and then exhibiting them at the Royal Academy alongside more genteel works. In many ways, Holl’s personal philosophy as enacted in his art mirrors that of the Ashcan School in America when they expanded their socially conscious graphic art to paint every corner, even the darkest, of urban American reality.

In 1877, Holl returned to the subject of childhood death with Hush! (above, from 1877). A mother asks an older child to be quiet as she anxiously watches over a sick baby. Both mother and elder sibling clearly know what might happen but don’t dare disturb the hushed silence by broaching the subject of death. In Hushed, the companion piece to Hush!, we witness the aftermath of the baby’s death. The mother covers her face while the surviving older child stands in stunned silence. The subtlety of the changed silence as conveyed in the two works illustrates Holl’s sensitivity and great psychological touch in portraying these people who too often remained invisible in British society. Unfortunately for Holl, such works did not sell well enough for him to support his own family. Holl painted portraits of the rich and powerful to provide for his family and to give himself the freedom to paint the socially conscious works closer to his heart. Working seven days a week, Holl eventually died from exhaustion at 43. "It is not too much to say that my father threw his life away by his utter inability to rest from work," Holl’s daughter later wrote. Thanks to Van Gogh, art lovers today can rediscover Holl’s paintings as well as his reforming passion.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Patriot Games

When Stephen Colbert took his show The Colbert Report to Iraq as part of the USO, he followed in the great tradition of entertainers bringing joy to the troops. Colbert, however, did more than just entertain the troops. He enlightened our country. When Colbert allowed General Raymond Odierno, commander of the Multinational Corps in Iraq, to give him the full military buzzcut on the show, a comedian demonstrated greater solidarity with the troops and patriotism than any politician of the last 6 years and counting. On this Fourth of July, I’m not thinking of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, or even Betsy Ross. Instead, I’m thinking of the picture of a true patriot, whose tonsorial sacrifice showed just how pitiful our sacrifices at home are in comparison to those fighting abroad. Like Jasper JohnsThree Flags (below, from 1958), America the idea and ideal is a concept with many layers and dimensions to argue over, but one that we must always remember to live in our hearts.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Four Questions for… Elizabeth Kennedy

In The Eight and American Modernisms (my review here), Elizabeth Kennedy, Curator of Collection at the Terra Foundation for American Art, tries to reposition The Eight within the history of American modern art. Along with her fellow essayists, Dr. Kennedy tries to toss the terms “The Ashcan School” onto the dustbin of art history for good. Dr. Kennedy also graciously agreed to answer a few questions regarding The Eight for a new feature at Art Blog By Bob, Four Questions for…

ABBB: In The Eight and American Modernisms, you go out of your way to minimize the use of the term “Ashcan School.” I’m as guilty as anyone of using the two labels synonymously. Do you think that the “Ashcan School” label deserves a full retirement?

Dr. Kennedy: Since the catchy phrase “Ashcan School” was coined in 1934, it has caused much mischief in coming to terms with the painterly qualities of The Eight’s body of work as well as veiling the importance of them as early American modernists. The journalistic and commercial endeavors of the Philadelphia Four (Glackens, Luks, Shinn and Sloan), however, are somewhat connected to the concept of “realistic” portraying street life. The true connection to the term is Sloan’s 1905 etchings series of New York, which depict scenes that are alternatives to American academic artists’ genteel subjects.

For me, it is the careless mixing art and politics that is implied in the term “Ashcan,” invented during the Great Depression, which does a disservice to these artists’ ambitions to be “modern painters of one kind or another.” As early as 1907 Henri touted their differences (therefore, no school), and Sloan, until his death in the 1950s, disputed any political agenda for myself, who was at one time a socialist and a cartoonist for The Masses, or the other artists. In summary, there was no “social or political” agenda attached to these artists’ works of art.

ABBB: You chose Robert Henri’s Betalo Nude (1916) for the cover of The Eight and American Modernisms, which earned me several offended (and several lingering) stares while reading it on my commute. Do you feel that The Eight’s approach to the nude positions them closer to European modernism? If so, does that make them less “American”?

Dr. Kennedy: The human form is at the center of the western art tradition. The plethora of nude females pictured in US art after the 1860s continues until today. Art historian Kenneth Clark’s celebrated The Nude: A Study in Ideal Form (1972) makes the distinction between the “nude” and the “naked” model, which is an important difference to make for American art in the first decades of the 20th century. If the female nude form was idealized, then it could be accepted as a work of art; a realistic portrayal was problematic. While at the turn of the century, paintings of female nudes were found in American art exhibitions, but they were not as frequent as the French salons.

20th century avant-guard European art distorted the body—in color by Fauvist artists or in shape by cubists. Henri achieved his own ideas through the use of theories and inspiration—with no need to impose a national identity. The Betalo Nude is gorgeous because of the color harmonies used to create a shape that happens to be a body. Of course, a natural fission arises from viewing nudity but there are other paintings of nude women that do not have the same impact. Henri’s created an exceptional painting because if its color and composition.

ABBB: As The Eight and American Modernisms shows, the styles and personalities of the artists falling under that banner differ greatly. Is there one artist who stands out from the rest for you personally?

Dr. Kennedy: My favorite member of The Eight is Maurice Prendergast because of his willingness to explore unconventional ideas and, yet, when he found his original style that expressed his creativity he remained focused on his mission. His story is inspiring because eventually others, the important modern art collectors and artists, realized his brilliance. Nevertheless, he is an underappreciated modernist because he did not “fit the Ashcan” label nor did he preach a “mantra of modernism” in the style of Alfred Stieglitz or Thomas Hart Benton. Prendergast arose each morning and went to his studio to work and left behind some of the most beautiful paintings ever made.

ABBB: When The Eight whittled their number down to eight, they left Jerome Myers and George Bellows most notably outside the fold. Like the legendary “Fifth Beatle,” who would you nominate for the “Ninth” Eight? Are there any women candidates for the position?

Dr. Kennedy: If there had been a 9th artist, it should have been Herni’s protégée George Bellows. Bellows was an exceptionally inventive painter, whose brightly colored palette of men at work upset the “Ashcan” label—nothing gloomy about these New York streets. Bellows’ later portraits and nudes are equally exceptional for their technique and inventiveness. His work before his untimely death was verging on the surreal.

[Many thanks to Dr. Kennedy for her gracious and thoughtful answers.]

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Scientific Method

For the June 2009 Art Poll By Bob, I indulged my inner comic geek and asked a summer blockbuster of a question: “Which of these great comic artist’s work would you want to see on the big screen?” You picked Steve Ditko’s Doctor Strange (1960s) with 7 votes, just edging out Jack Cole’s Plastic Man (1941) with 6. Dave Cockrum’s X-Men (1975) came in third with 5 votes, ahead of fourth place Jack Kirby’s Captain America (1976) with 4. Neal AdamsBatman versus Ra’s al Ghul (1971), Frank Frazetta’s Conan the Barbarian (1970s), and Todd McFarlane’s Spider-Man (1990) all tied with 3 votes each. Joe Kubert’s Hawkman squeeked out a single vote, but John Romita, Sr.’s Spider-Man (1967) and Joe Shuster’s Superman (1938) found no love. Thanks to everyone who shared in my comic book fantasies.

Inspired by Iris Schaefer, Katja Lewerentz, and Caroline von Saint-George’s Painting Light: The Hidden Techniques of the Impressionists (my review here), I decided to tap into my inner Beaker (above) and use the scientific method to find the best science-related art. For the July 2009 Art Poll By Bob, I ask, “Which of these science-related works of art make you wish you had paid more attention in high school lab?”:

William Blake. Newton (1795).

Leonardo da Vinci. Vitruvian Man (1487).

Jacques-Louis David. Portrait of Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier and His Wife (1788).

Albrecht Durer. Melencolia I (1514).

Thomas Eakins. The Gross Clinic (1875).

Thomas Eakins. Portrait of Professor Henry A. Rowland (1897).

Erich Mendelsohn. Einstein Tower (1920-1924).

Charles Willson Peale. The Artist in His Museum (1822).

Charles Willson Peale. Exhuming the First American Mastodon (1806).

Joseph Wright of Derby. An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump (1768).

Eakins and Peale get two mentions each because they did so many science-related paintings. Durer’s Melancolia I makes the cut because I can’t think of a single image in art history that contains more references to mathematics. Please feel free to include any favorites that I may have missed in the comments. But now put on your lab coat, strap on those safety goggles, fire up the Bunsen burners, and vote!