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Forms of Knowledge

Ian Blatchford and Tilly Blyth on a conversation between art and maths, and the inspiration Barbara Hepworth gained from mysterious properties of geometric stringed maths models

Sir Ian Blatchford and Dr Tilly Blyth continue their series exploring how art and science have inspired each other. They focus on a unique encounter between 20th century artists and their discovery of a collection of 19th century mathematical models, once used to illustrate a new world of complex spherical geometry.

As Tilly reveals these “ruled surface” stringed models, now held in the Science Museum Group collection, as well as being educational tools had their own aesthetic appeal. For the Constructivist artists, such as Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth, they were inspiration for new imaginative and abstract sculptural creativity.

As Ian illustrates, with a visit to Hepworth’s 20 ft Winged Figure in central London, this abstract art that embraced new forms, materials and ways of constructing, became highly symbolic of the functional value for art in society. There was a strong desire for a new sense of certainty and common currency in both science and art, during the turmoil of the interwar period.

Producer Adrian Washbourne

Produced in partnership with The Science Museum Group

Photograph by Oli Scarff/Getty Images

Available now

14 minutes


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