Babbitt’s Light & Color

Posted by on May 12, 2009 in Uncategorized | No Comments

“LIGHT reveals the glories of the external world and yet is the most glorious of them all. It gives beauty, reveals beauty and is itself most beautiful.” Edwin D. Babbit

I’ve been captured by Edwin Babbit’s book entitled “The Principles of Light and Color”. I can’t stop reading it. It was written in 1878 and apparently not very well received by the medical community due to the suggestion that light and colour could have healing effects on the human body. I’m trying to remain aware that the work was written over a hundred years ago and that much scientific discovery has happened since then and it’s this very thought that keeps my mind dancing back and forth between new understanding and new ‘old’ understanding. The way it is written is very different to any scientific writings I have experienced before, he uses elegant adjectives to embellish theories and writes with passion about subjects usually documented with a more objective approach. I haven’t read like this since i was ten years old, reading Roald Dahl under the bed covers by the light of my Sega Game Gear.

In first chapter “Harmonic Laws of the Universe” he writes about unity and diversity and how the these combine to reveal harmony. He uses three images to illustrate his ideas:
babbitt-light-color-unity-diversity-harmony

Fig 34 and Fig 35 are described as equally distressing and a violation of the regular development of nature. The first (fig 34) immediately resembles the work of Jackson Pollock and the second (Fig 35) reminds me of Kazimir Malevich’s Black Square and even John Cages’s 4’33”. It’s fascinating to think in the century following this book, artists began using the principles Babbitt is discussing in their work to explore alternative directions in art beyond the aesthetic.

Anyway… It’s got me hooked and it’s got me thinking… about light and colour and Horstmann and the butterfly.

Take a peek for yourself:

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