Research Lunch | Geological Landscape in Britain

Posted in lectures (to attend) by Caitlin Smits on January 17, 2016


Drawings of minerals arranged in families according with the system of Professor Jameson, 1830–36
(Special Collections at Edinburgh University)

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From the Paul Mellon Centre

Allison Ksiazkiewicz | Primitive Forms and Prospects: Geological
Landscape in Late Eighteenth- and Early Nineteenth-Century Britain
Paul Mellon Centre, London, 5 February 2016

During the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, British mineralogists and geologists appropriated different forms of inquiry such as art and architecture to help them wrestle with the natural and artificial aspects that informed their scientific sensibilities. The relationship between humanity and Nature, as debated in philosophical and artistic circles, paralleled discussions in earth studies and the developing new science of geology. While aesthetic categories such as the picturesque enabled artists to negotiate and articulate attitudes towards Nature that emphasized harmony and balance, these same techniques in scientific depiction cultivated and supported a sense of empirical vision of geological landscapes.

The mineral collections of Sir Charles Greville (1749–1809), Sir John St Aubyn (1758–1839) and Sir Abraham Hume (1749–1838), and A Geological Map of England and Wales by George Bellas Greenough (1778–1855) will be used to explore issues of art and aesthetics in the making of mineralogical and geological knowledge. Greville, St Aubyn and Hume were each influential figures in artistic and scientific communities and commissioned the mineralogist and French émigré Comte de Bournon (1751–1825) to catalogue their respective mineral cabinets. As a student of crystallography, Bournon classified specimens according to basic crystallized shapes that functioned as universal primitive forms. Geologists motivated by mineralogical interpretations of the earth understood geo-landscape through the interpretation of these basic elements. The production of a coloured geological map of England and Wales was one of the first projects undertaken by the Geological Society of London. Greenough, founder and first President of the Society, supported chemical and mineralogical interpretations of earth structure, and used colour to represent the relative positions of strata while maintaining a ‘naturalistic’ palette in the depiction of formations on his map.

All are welcome! However, places are limited, so if you would like to attend please contact our Events Manager, Ella Fleming on events@paul-mellon-centre.ac.uk. This is a free event, and lunch is provided.

Friday, 5 Februay 2016, 12:30–2:00pm
Lecture Room, Paul Mellon Centre, 16 Bedford Square, London WC1B 3JA