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Art and alchemy : the mystery of…
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Art and alchemy : the mystery of transformation

by Sven Dupré

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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 377742207X, Hardcover)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Fri, 19 Feb 2016 13:28:13 -0500)

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