Art and Alchemy

The Mystery of Transformation

Edited by Sven Dupré, Dedo von Kerssenbrock-Krosigk, and Beat Wismer

Edited by Sven Dupré, Dedo von Kerssenbrock-Krosigk, and Beat Wismer

Distributed for Hirmer Publishers

264 pages | 170 color plates | 8 1/2 x 10 1/2 | © 2014
Cloth $49.95 ISBN: 9783777422077 Published June 2014 For sale in North America and Japan only
The idea of transforming stones into silver, common copper into gold, has captured the popular imagination for centuries. At its peak in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, alchemy, the “royal art,” served as both a catalyst for developments in the nascent chemistry of the day and a framework for making sense of this rapidly changing science. Throughout history, alchemists have also been seen as practitioners of an arcane spiritual act symbolizing the cleansing of the human soul. These shifting interpretations that straddle science and art have made alchemy a particularly fruitful subject for artists, from the renowned painters of the High Renaissance to contemporary artists like Sigmar Polke and Anish Kapoor.
           
Lavishly illustrated, Art and Alchemy accompanies an exhibition of the same name at the Museum Kunstpalast in Düsseldorf that brings together historical texts and a selection of artworks that take alchemy as their inspiration. Among the works discussed are Melancholy by Lucas Cranach the Elder, an oil painting that plays on the classical alchemical element; Jan Brueghel the Elder’s The Allegory of Fire; and a variety of works by Dutch painter, draftsman, and printmaker Hendrick Goltzius. Alchemy also continues to play an important role in the works of contemporary artists like Yves Klein, Jörg Lenzlinger, Gerda Steiner, and Anselm Kiefer, and their works are included, as are contributions from contemporary scientists who offer the results of their recent research. In addition to providing an apt theme for artistic interpretation, alchemical practices were often used to produce art, as with the preparation of the old-world pigments leadwhite and vermillion, demonstrating the manifold connections between the two disciplines.
           
A fascinating collection that explores the disciplines’ many intersections and common concerns, Art and Alchemy also sheds light on how our understanding of the world and our position in it has changed over time.
Contents
Sponsor’s Note
 
Foreword
 
Art and Alchemy: An Introduction
Dedo von Kerssenbrock-Krosigk, Beat Wismer, Sven Dupré, and Anita Hachmann
 
History of Alchemy
 
     A Practical Science: The History of Alchemy
     Lawrence M. Principe
 
Secret Language
 
     A Secret Language: The Ripley Scrolls
     Jennifer Rampling
 
Alchemical Laboratories
 
     Spaces of Wonder and Ruin: Alchemical Laboratories in Early Modern Painting
     Lawrence M. Principe
 
Chemistry and the Arts
 
     Making Materials: The Arts of Fire
     Sven Dupré
 
God’s Crafts
 
     God’s Crafts: Imitating and Recreating Nature
     William R. Newman
 
Opus Magnum
 
     Allegories of Fire and of the Arts
     Christine Göttler
 
     The “Reddener”: Peter Paul Rubens and Alchemy
     Tine L. Meganck

Surrealism
 
     Surrealism and Alchemy
     M. E. Warlick
 
Contemporary Art
 
     Metabolic Processes: On Great Works and Invisible Values in Contemporary Art
     Ulli Seegers
 
Glossary
 
List of Works Exhibited
 
Catalogue References
 
Further Reading
 
Acknowledgements
 
Photo Credits
 
Colophon
For more information, or to order this book, please visit http://www.press.uchicago.edu
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