A few weeks ago I visited the William Morris Gallery and it was for me a great revelation. I had seen his work before but I didn’t know much the great man behind it. Despite his privileged life Morris was a social activist, advocating - amongst many other things – for a new form of art which was affordable and hand-made. He wanted to raise the artisan to the status of the artist, against the rise of industrial manufacture. This is why I have decided to draw one of his famous patterns as my monthly copy. To make it more interesting I added also a portrait of him and his lifelong companions: Gabriel Dante Rossetti and Edward Burne-Jones (who inspired with him to the Arts and Crafts Movement) and his wife Jane Morris, discussing the teachings of John Ruskin’s The Stones Of Venice.
“Brother Rabbit,” design registered May 20, 1882 (printed 1917–23) (detail) Designed by William Morris (British, 1834–1896); Produced by Morris & Company, Merton Abbey, England Printed cotton; 106 1/2 x 37 1/2 in. (270.5 x 95.3 cm) Purchase, Edward C. Moore Jr. Gift, 1923 (23.163.5)
Morris famously said:
“I do not want art for a few any more than education for a few, or freedom for a few.”
I couldn’t agree more, and I would would follow up saying that I do not want science for a few any more than art for a few. Art has become a much more ‘popular’ during the past century (although probably not more affordable), while the appreciation of science has mostly remained a privilege of a few academics. I think it’s time to apply Morris’s revolutionary spirit to the sciences: to make them much more accessible and democratic. And since we’re at it, why not create science-inspired wallpapers, fabrics and patterns? The intricate structure of biology would lend themselves perfectly to beautiful designs and many artists are already working in this direction. We should have public commissions for scientific designs, to incorporate in our public schools and hospitals, libraries and museums.
Is it just a dream?
Great news! From tomorrow you should be able to find the beautiful Italian edition of Neurocomic by Rizzoli Lizard.
As you may know, I have been living abroad for most of my adult life and I am not particularly inclined to nationalistic sentimentalities, but I can’t help feeling some pride in seeing this book translated in my mother tongue. So I have decided to indulge in a little celebratory drawing: here is Luigi Galvani, pioneer of neuroscience, losing his experimental subjects in a dark and stormy Bologna (our common hometown). The comic geeks amongst you can also have some fun spotting a couple of hidden references to popular Italian logos.
Thanks to all of you who supported me. When I started working on Neurocomic two years ago I would have never imagined this day would come.
Here is a little illustration inspired by the latest Neurocomic talk at The Cube London. Our guest speaker Philip Loring, curator of Psychology at the Science Museum, guided us through the fascinating history of electrotherapy with a series of paintings, concluding with The Nerves Of The Army by CRW Nevinson.
CRW Nevinson (1918) Nerves of the Army,
Oil on canvas, 88.9 x 54 cm (c) Imperial War Museums
So I think this also counts as my monthly copy, although heavily modified to omage Dr. Duchenne de Bolougne, one of the fathers of modern neurology and great practitioner of electrotherapy himself, which he employed to study the “physiology of emotions”. His pionering photographs were later used for the illustrations in Darwin’s book The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals.
Figure 20 from Charles Darwin’s The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872). Caption reads “FIG. 20.—Terror, from a photograph by Dr. Duchenne”
Also, did you know that Duchenne “determined that smiles resulting from true happiness not only utilize the muscles of the mouth but also those of the eyes. Such “genuine” smiles are known as Duchenne smiles in his honor.” ? This is why I love Wikipedia.
Finally, if this electric medley of science-art and history is not enough for your voracious brains, I strongly recommend the recent article Can you supercharge your brain? on Mosaic Science, reporting the current applications of transcranial direct-current stimulation (tDCS) in military training. Some crazy story…
A few days late on my schedule here is the homework for May: a black and white cartoony version of The Threatened Assassin by Rene Magritte. I always loved Magritte surrealist art, I discovered this one because it was once mentioned by David Lynch as one of his favourite paintings of all times.
Black ink and pens (420mm x 297 mm)
The Threatened Assassin, 1926 by Rene Magritte
May has been a pretty busy month: I’m back at work on the second season of MCB80x and I also started a new exciting collaboration with another American university… but I still found the time to make this little illustration, inspired by the talk Mike Jay gave on the 3rd of May, part of a series of events accompanying the Neurocomic exhibition at TheCube. If you are in London please come to see Philip Loring talk on the 5th of June.
The illustration represents a molecule of endorphin getting distracted, while a sneaky opioid opens a μ receptor. Opium (also known as ‘poppy tears’) is one the most popular drugs of all times. Read more about the history of mind altering substances in High Society.
OK, let’s start this month with some overdue news. Recently I have been working on 2 sets of illustrations for UCL. The first set will be used occasionally on the main UCL homepage.
The second set was commissioned by the UCL Faculty of Mathematical and Physical Sciences. I was particularly pleased with this as it allowed me, once again, to combine science and art.
If you can’t wait to see them all you can find them on my website: http://matteofarinella.com/UCL
The copy of this month is of The Depths Of A Wound, a visionary lithography by Fritz Kahn, from 1943. This one was hard work but after all Kahn is one of my very favourite artists, pioneer of scientific illustrations and infographics. Unfortunately I was not able to find the original legend. However I think I can recognize bacterias sneaking in the broken wound, some lymphocytes coming down to fight them and the platelets try to stop the beading. A real masterpiece!
NOTE: This illustration and many others have been recently collected in a beautiful monograph, edited by Taschen and curated by Uta and Thilo von Debschiz,
Black ink, pens and pencil (297 mm x 420mm )
PS: you can see some work in progress in the pictures published by Fumettologica last week.