Cosmos: The Art and Science of the Universe (Hardcover)
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Since time immemorial, the nocturnal skies have mesmerized us, and heavenly bodies have inspired the imaginations of artists, poets, and scientists. Featuring paintings, sculpture, drawings, watercolors, prints, as well as plates from books, celestial diagrams, and astronomical photography, this book showcases the superstars of the firmament and the universe beyond in sumptuous illustrations.
Cosmos: The Art and Science of the Universe charts the human love affair with the heavens in art and astronomy in a story based on sound science and insightful art and cultural history. With thrilling and seductive illustrations, Cosmos recounts in ten lively chapters the fascinating history of the human quest to unlock the mysteries of the universe. Showcasing works of art and new information, interpretations, and amusing anecdotes, this stunning book weaves a rich tapestry of celestial interconnections and our efforts to understand the universe, unveiling the beauty of the cosmos and its compelling story.
About the Author
Roberta J. M. Olson is curator of drawings at the New-York Historical Society and professor emeritus of art history at Wheaton College in Massachusetts. She is the author of Fire and Ice: A History of Comets in Art. Jay M. Pasachoff is the Field Memorial Professor of Astronomy and director of the Hopkins Observatory at Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts, and coauthor of The Sun, also published by Reaktion Books. Olson and Pasachoff have been jointly working on the intersection of art and astronomy since the 1985–1986 passage of Halley’s Comet brought them together. They are coauthors of Fire in the Sky: Comets and Meteors, the Decisive Centuries, in British Art and Science, and Cosmos is the culmination of their decades of collaboration.
“Featuring hundreds of beautiful illustrations, paintings, prints, and photographs, Cosmos: The Art and Science of the Universe explores astronomical phenomena and humans’ fascination with them throughout history, as evidenced by depictions in works of art. The book is the result of a collaboration between astronomer Pasachoff and art historian Olson, who spent the past three decades collecting the images that would feature in this interdisciplinary study. Complementing the imagery is a narrative that chronicles developments in both astronomy and art over the past several millennia.”
— Physics Today
“Handsome. . . . Cosmos brings together art historian Olson and astronomer Pasachoff, who have written prolifically about astronomy and the arts since 1985. They showcase a wide variety of representative artifacts, from a prehistoric medallion of bronze and gold embossed with a crude sky map to a phantasmagoric solar eclipse painting by German expressionist George Grosz to high-resolution digital renderings from NASA space missions.”
— Laurence Marschall
"Olson and Pasachoff join strengths felicitously in a large-format tour and celebration of images of the cosmos, from ancient and fine art through scientific illustrations to the (literally) out-of-this-world observations made by the Hubble Space Telescope and other modern instruments."
— Harvard Magazine
"The compelling introduction in Cosmos invites examination of the connection between art and science. The volume comprises a series of richly illustrated chapters, each focused on a particular aspect of astronomy. Olson and Pasachoff devote two-thirds of the book to the sun, moon, eclipses, comets, and meteors—objects that have inspired artists in their work. The authors selected important examples from a trove of images that persuasively demonstrate the postulated relationship. . . . Later chapters introduce images from instruments of the details of planets, nebulae, and even the moons of the solar system, images made possible as science developed. The book concludes with a collection of recent images. The emphasis throughout is on the images, and the narrative offers informed comments about selected paintings. . . . The illustrations span millennia, which enables the authors to illuminate the fascinating morphing of astrology, the original science of the heavens, into astronomy, the current scientific view of the cosmos. Highly recommended."
"This book is about humankind's fascination with the heavens and its attempts to understand it through art and science. . . . Generously illustrated, the book's text follows developments in astronomy and Western art chronologically. . . . [Cosmos] combines cultural history and science together in a diverse and entertaining narrative."
— Maine Antique Digest
"Assembled by Olson and Pasachoff (curator of drawings at the New-York Historical Society, and the Field Memorial Professor of Astronomy as well as the director of the Hopkins Observatory, respectively) Cosmos: The Art and Science of the Universe is an in-depth visual look at our collective obsession with the night sky. Via art that addresses astronomy, our passion for space is traced from wood-cuttings and diagrams to paintings, sculpture, and satellite photography. With 306 illustrations, many in full-color, this hardcover is a celebration of celestial treasures."
— Cool Hunting
"The pictures in this book are both absolutely stunning and superbly reproduced. . . . The text is pacey, erudite, and informative and underlines the detailed, comprehensive, and impressive knowledge the authors have of the subject. . . . In total the book is a great joy. I loved the way that the authors related the astronomical art to the culture, literature, and politics of the times."
— Observatory Magazine
"Full of valuable information. . . . The illustrations are superbly selected and reproduced, and cannot be praised enough. . . .The book is lavish, well produced, deep in erudition, and is so well accomplished that it will be quite unnecessary for anyone, in the foreseeable future, to attempt it again, so completely and masterfully does it fulfill its niche."
— SHA Bulletin
"This is a beautiful book, both physically and intellectually, and a fitting sequel to their earlier classic, Fire in the Sky. . . . This is lovely book to look at and to read, with fine-quality images throughout printed on art paper. It deserves to be in the library of anyone interested in the art–astronomy interface."
— Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage
“The night sky is the grandest feature of our environment. It has been shared by all humanity, throughout history, stimulating a sense of wonder and mystery. In this eloquent and beautifully illustrated book, Olson and Pasachoff recount how the cosmos has inspired artists through the ages to create images that have become embedded in our culture.”
— Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal
“‘What could be more beautiful than the heavens,’ Copernicus asked, ‘which contain all beautiful things?’ Olson and Pasachoff offer their exuberant, elaborate endorsement of Copernicus’s sentiment in this resplendently illustrated celebration of artworks inspired by starry nights, solar eclipses, and other celestial wonders.”
— Dava Sobel, author of “Longitude,” “Galileo's Daughter,” and “The Glass Universe”
“Filled with awe upon completing Cosmos, I was amazed at the depth of documentation paired with pioneering content. What a remarkable feat of scholarship Olson and Pasachoff have achieved. Whether religiously motivated, scientifically oriented, or just curious, artists from all times have embraced and explored the origins of our universe. Creative higher mathematics is often geometric and therefore visual. This historic study investigates how artists have shaped their cosmic discoveries into provocative images, while it traces the complex search to understand the universe.”
— Dorothea Rockburne, artist
“It should not be surprising that astronomical subjects pervade all manner of art through the ages, yet Cosmos amazes. Olson and Pasachoff’s well-researched and lavishly illustrated tome delightfully demonstrates that this iconography is beautifully represented in the arts throughout history.”
— Tom Baione, Harold Boeschenstein Library Director, American Museum of Natural History
“Olson and Pasachoff scour the cosmos of the arts for images of the heavens and show not only what the universe is, but what it means in this marvel of a book. With one surprising variation on a theme after another, every page is a revelation of the visual impact of the sky.”
— E.C. Krupp, Director, Griffith Observatory
"This book is a work of art in itself. The weaving of art and science creates partners in the journey of imagination and exploration of the Universe."
— Jody Pinto, artist