It’s commonly thought that math and art are activities controlled by two different sides of the brain. While this could be true or not (experts still haven’t settled on a conclusion), it may seem somewhat unimaginable that these two subjects can not only collide but inform one another.
Mathematics has been an intimate part of artwork from ancient eras. World-famous painters like Leonardo Da Vinci, George Seurat, Sandro Botticelli, Michelangelo, Salvador Dali, and many more have used mathematical concepts while creating some of their masterpieces. From the golden ratio to optical illusionism, the mathematics behind the art is undeniably fascinating.
Let’s forget these globally renowned paintings for a minute; what do you feel is the most common thing in art and mathematics? The answer is that they both fill up some emptiness. You start with a blank canvas and then finish it by painting some artistic strokes or engraving a plethora of mathematical symbols.
How Math and Art Connect?
When children join art classes, can you guess what they are taught first? Lines!
Straight lines, curves, circles, arcs, and so on, which the world knows as geometrical figures, are the foundation of creating complete paintings. A child’s first painting books consist of drawings using different shapes. When you were in school, you used to draw circles to make a sun, arcs to shape leaves and fish, triangles to create mountains, and combine a trapezium and a quadrilateral to create a house. There are many examples where you mixed up math and art and didn’t even know it.
Math in Famous Artworks
Many artists have taken advantage of geometrical shapes, abstract figures, fractal dimensions, and other mathematical ideas to compose their artworks.
- Pablo Picasso’s Three Musicians
- Paul Klee’s The Red Balloon
- Piet Mondrian’s Broadway Boogie Woogie
- Henry Matisse’s The Snail
These are such pieces that showcase the enormous use of geometric figures.
Artists have been gathering inspiration from mathematical formulas and work for a long time. Albrecht Durer’s engraving of Melancholia I is famous for using a magic square and truncated triangular trapezohedron.
During the Renaissance period, some artists were so taken with the concept of math and art that they ended up writing books on the same topic. Luca Pacioli’s book De Divina Proportione, illustrated by Leonardo Da Vinci, is a notable work on art and mathematics.
Apart from all these, the concept of the golden ratio influenced a wide range of artworks by renowned artists the most. Leonardo Da Vinci’s many works are just the artistic applications of the golden ratio. With perfect diligence, he used the golden ratio in some art pieces, as in Monalisa, The Last Supper, and Annunciation, to name a few. If you take a look, you will be able to find golden rectangle grids in the painting. Da Vinci’s is one of the most mysterious and praised artworks.
The width of Monalisa’s face maintains a golden proportion to the width of the canvas. Similarly, her eyes are the golden ratio of her face. This means if you divide the golden rectangle drawn on her face by creating a line, you can see more golden rectangles close to her eyes.
Sandro Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus, Georges Seurat’s Bathers at Asnieres, and Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam are popular works inspired by the golden ratio.
Abstractness and Dimensionality
Besides filling up the emptiness, another common feature between art and math is their abstractness. There’s no doubt that abstract art has always been in style since the time of its existence. Such pieces have an eye-pleasing factor that leads our hearts to be filled with amazement. The majority of the abstract artworks feature geometrical shapes, symmetry, and a variety of other shapes that look like different curvatures.
Art is sometimes simply an illusion. A two-dimensional canvas can be used to create a three- or four-dimensional scenery. Different dimensions play a major role in various branches of mathematics and are a skill possessed by an artist that they portray on blank pages. Some artists draw lines and shapes so that they create an optical illusion. These kinds of paintings are fine examples of math and art coming together.
It is a common feature of artists to collect inspiration from everywhere. Math is no exception either. Concepts such as linear perspective, different geometric structures, divine proportion, and the golden ratio are excellent examples of such inspiration that the artists use in their artworks to create abstractness and dimensionality.
Some Popular Mathematical Concepts in Art
It is no secret that math and art are like two great friends working together. Whether you look at some notable pieces by globally recognized artists or visit a nearby gallery full of unknown pieces, you will find traces of math in most of the artworks. Moreover, in various branches of mathematics, like calculus, statistics, algebra, vector algebra, and coordinate geometry, you must use graphs, diagrams, and curves to solve problems.
Here is a brief picture of some math concepts used in art.
- Linear Perspective: This is a common concept to make an artwork look multidimensional, even though it is drawn on a two-dimensional canvas. Linear perspective presents depth in paintings created on a flat surface.
- Polyhedra: Both polyhedra and polygons are profoundly used in art. From renowned artists to kindergarten students, everyone draws such geometrical shapes to form their paintings. Whether it is abstract art or normal scenery, polyhedrons can be seen in many art pieces.
- Fractal Dimensions: Fractal dimensions in art have gained huge popularity in recent times. It is mostly used in digital art nowadays to make beautiful and flawless pieces of art.
- Symmetry: You will find symmetry in most of the artworks that the artists create, as they are inspired by fractals. Designs of buildings, monuments, and temples are great examples of symmetrical artwork.
- Angles: Artists create various abstract artworks based on angles. They draw different angles to shape several polygons or polyhedra that add absolute beauty to the piece. From portraits to other forms of art, angles play a crucial role in almost every painting.
If you are surprised to learn how math is used in art, visit BYJU’S FutureSchool blogs to read about such fascinating topics. Do let us know your opinion after reading this article through your comments.