The Mathematics of Perspective in Art

with Sarah Hart
Tuesday, November 30, 2021 • Thursday, December 2, 2021 • Tuesday, December 7, 2021
4:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. EST

Apply or nominate here.
Deadline: October 28.

Math and art might seem like very different interests, but they have long been connected to one another. For instance, one of the great achievements of Renaissance art was Filippo Brunelleschi’s discovery of the rules of perspective. More recently, the artist M.C. Escher has been a favorite among mathematicians, thanks to his ingenious tilings of the plane with interlocking figures, which could, in theory, extend forever. But where do these principles come from, and how do they work? This class will explore the juncture where math meets art. Along the way, we’ll encounter effects like “anamorphic perspective,” used to create the distorted skull in Holbein’s famous painting, “The Ambassadors,” and still seen in televised sports. We’ll also talk about perspective painting’s link to the strange world of projective geometry, and how Escher’s designs were fundamentally influenced by mathematician Donald Coxeter, who in turn produced research based on Escher’s art.

This is a three-session master class. In the first two sessions, teachers learn from the master. In the third, participants have a rare and valuable opportunity to exchange ideas with other brilliant teachers. Participants are assigned a small amount of homework to prepare for each session.

Sarah Hart is a Professor of Mathematics at Birkbeck, University of London. In 2020, she was appointed the 33rd Gresham Professorship of Geometry, the oldest mathematics chair in the UK, dating back to 1597. She is the first woman to ever hold the position. She is also President of the British Society for the History of Mathematics, the oldest such society in Europe. As well as promoting academic research into the history of mathematics, a key aim of the society is to emphasize the cultural importance of mathematics by incorporating the history of mathematics into mathematics education. Her own research is mainly in group theory, which is the key tool used by mathematicians to understand symmetry. With over twenty years of teaching experience, she is a regular speaker at public events, where she is particularly interested in discussing mathematics, culture, and creativity. Her book Once Upon a Prime, about mathematics and literature, will be published in 2023.

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