The Saint Louis Art Museum

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Objective: Find at least two instances where artwork either uses geometry or displays concepts of geometry

Visit the Saint Louis Art Museum and carefully look at the art now that you have had a course in geometry. Write two short papers about artworks that either used geometry or can be understood in terms of geometry. Your two examples should relate to two different topics.

  • Each of your two papers should each be 1-2 pages, typed, double-spaced, 1-inch margins.
  • Describe the artwork you are discussing (note in what gallery it is on display).
  • Explain what type of geometry we see in the art.

You should choose two examples from the following topics

  • Basic Geometric Shapes
  • Rosette, Border or Wallpaper Patterns
  • Perspective
  • Impossible Figures
  • The Fourth Dimension
  • Knot Theory
  • Fractals

Some Remarks

You can pick 2 objects to discuss, but you could also write about the geometry found in African Art, or the geometry found in Maya Art. You might look at the geometry found in decorative glassware. This approach would allow you use combine the two papers into one. Use your imagination. Check with me if your approach is the right one. The point of the exercise is to see where geometry is used in art, and have some fun with the material.

Some ideas:

  • Tessellations (all galleries):

All of the floors in the galleries are wood floors. All of them have been laid in interesting patterns. How many different symmetry patterns can you find? What types of symmetry are more likely to be used? 2-fold rotation, 4-fold rotation, reflection, others?

  • Border patterns in Chinese art (Gallery 229, 233)

Which of the seven border patterns are used in the art displayed in the Chinese galleries?

  • Moorish art (Gallery 224)

This is the kind of art that Escher would have seen in his trips to Spain. What kind of symmetries are present on the large convent doors at the back of the room? Look inside the basin and notice the fish engraved. Don’t they remind you of some of Escher’s drawings?

  • Picasso and the 4th Dimension (Gallery 327)

There are some wonderful Picasso paintings on display and some can be interpreted as showing the 4th dimension. Explain which artwork and how is can be interpreted as depicting 4 dimensions.

  • Geometric Art (Gallery 332)

Describe the features of the geometric art displayed here. There is work by Mondriaan, Rietveld and others. What kind of geometric figures do they use in their artwork?

  • Modern Art (Galleries 333, 335, 338, 322, 323)

The artists on display in these galleries do not limit themselves to geometric object, but they do use geometric shapes to create their images. Pick two or three paintings and describe how geometry is used in the work of art.

  • Other

Feel free to be creative. If you find other examples of geometry and art in the museum, then feel free to write about them.

I will be at the museum at a date to be determined later to give you a tour and help give you some ideas.


Saint Louis Art Museum