Descartes is the father of modern philosophy, abstract, mathematical and scientific. In mathematics he is the father of algebraic geometry and laid the groundwork for the calculus of Newton and Leibnitz. In general Descartes rejected empirical knowledge for experimental confirmation, the throwing out several millennia of Aristotelian “science”. He even rejected the existence of his own body and the sensations provided by it. All knowledge must be proven and it set the stage for the enlightenment and rationalism. He developed an early form of the law of conservation of mechanical momentum. “Thus, God imparted various motions to the parts of matter when he first created them, and he now conserves all this matter in the same way, and by the same process by which he originally created it; and it follows from what we have said that this fact alone makes it most reasonable to think that God likewise always conserves the same quantity of motion in matter.” I hear echos of the conservation of mass espoused by Levoisier, the father of modern chemistry, Leibniz conservation of energy, Joule's mechanical equilalence of heat and even Einstein's conservation of matter and energy.
We were at the Louvre recently with Lisa's sister to show her some of my favorite Flemish painters and we stopped at the area devoted to Rembrandt. We happened to meet a nice French gentleman, Gaston, who was kind enough to share his favorite painting shown above, Philosophe en Méditation from 1632. While my French and his English was not perfect, we had a lovely conversation about the painting and I was inspired to write a post.
‘Gypsy Girl’ (also known as ‘Bohemian’) is an oil painting on wood created by Frans Hals in approximately 1628-1630. It depicts a young gypsy wench who appears to be slightly leaning her right arm on a table or counter, and bears a sly and somewhat mischievous smile on her face. Each brush stroke has been exquisitely executed as to create a particular elegance to her burly physique. She seems to be facing a window that illuminates her face, drawing the viewer’s attention to her voluptuous breasts. She dons a red overdress, with a low-cut white shirt underneath. Hals well-known portraiture talents are most apparent in ‘Gypsy Girl’ as he masterfully contrasts her hardened street-smart appearance with the soft, natural beauty of her inner self. She seems happy with her life.
Hals was a master of a technique that utilized something previously seen as a flaw in painting, the visible brushstroke. The soft curling lines of Hals' brush are always clear upon the surface: “materially just lying there, flat, while conjuring substance and space in the eye.” Hals was fond of daylight and silvery sheen, while Rembrandt used golden glow effects based upon artificial contrasts of low light in immeasurable gloom. Both men were painters of touch, but of touch on different keys — Rembrandt was the bass, Hals the treble.