What is Science-Art?



With my weekly Scumble posts, the Science-Artists Feed and upcoming session at ScienceOnline11 with John Hawks and David Orr, I've been talking a lot about Science Art ( aka: sciart, science-based art, etc).

What is Science Art?

It's always tough when you're in the middle of a burgeoning artistic movement to label it, and even the various art manifestos that pepper art history are unsatisfying to later palates.

That said, I find there's often confusion when talking about art between the large umbrella term "ART" and the more specific world of what we mean when we refer to Fine Art.  Scientific Illustration is not Fine Art; they're both different branches under the Art phylogenetic tree, if you'll permit the metaphor.

There can be some horizontal genetic transfers; images that make the leap between different types of art. Most commonly this happens with time, such as the scientific illustrations of Audobon appearing in fine art history texts as a bit of a nod to the influence scientific illustration can have in fine art.

Here's my attempt to label what Science-Art is. Most of this is cribbed from my need for definitions that I used for ScienceOnline09.


My bias is showing: many examples are biology related.  I've tried to limit each category here to a few examples.  You can see I've also largely left out photography and cartoons and comics, though arguably (and I'm prepared to argue!) many examples of those may deserve to be included here.

5 types of Science Art:

1. Scientific Illustration - Examples: Carl BuellAlbrecht Durer, many artists’ work at the Guild of Natural Scientific Illustrators.

2. Science Fine Art & Design - Examples: Felice FrankelMarc Quinn, Paul WaldeWim Delvoye.


3. Art using scientific subjects as a springboard - Examples: Dali’s Crucifixion (Corpus Hypercubus),  Archimboldo, Lynn Fellman, myself.

4. Art inspired and made by scientific technique - Examples: op art & trompe l’oeilMan RayDIY Biohackers Klari Reis.

5. Speculative science art & science fiction - Examples: Nemo RamjetSpeculative Dinosaur Projectsome Dougal Dixon booksWayne Barlowe.

Are there more categories?  Where would you place some of your favourite science-artists?
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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow
under Creative Commons Licence.

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