Mathematics and the Arts

Discipline: Mathematics
Instructor: Wassell
Credits: 3
Day: B
Start: 0925
End: 1040
Field Work: Day 1 - Wednesday, 1 October | Portugal Download Syllabus

Mathematical concepts such as geometry, proportion, and symmetry often arise in analyses of artwork, and many prominent artists explicitly incorporate mathematical ideas into their designs. This course explores the relationships between math and art, from ancient times through the present. We will discuss how mathematics has been used as a tool by artists throughout history. The focus is on the visual arts, especially architecture, but the role of proportions in music is also included. Other topics include the development of perspective and its influences, the Platonic solids and other polyhedra, and fractals. The course has sufficient mathematical content that it could transfer as an introductory college-level math course for students from programs that have such requirements, but the level of math is understandable for students of all majors.

Field Work

Country: Portugal
Day: 1 - Wednesday, 1 October

The field lab will be a tour of Lisbon to see some of its most significant works of art and architecture, as well as an excursion to Cascais. We will spend a couple of hours at the ‎Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, a world-class museum that has an eclectic collection of art from Egypt, Greece, Rome, the Middle East, the Far East, and Europe, and the building itself is notable for its design. We will visit works of architecture designed by the two Portuguese winners of the Pritzker Prize, the most prestigious prize in architecture: Álvaro Siza Vieira (Pavilion of Portugal) and Eduardo Souto de Moura (Casa das Histórias, in Cascais). Other works of architecture include Gare do Oriente Station by Santiago Calatrava, a premier Spanish architect, and Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, a 15th century monastery that was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. Academic Objectives:

  1. Students will apply concepts they have learned in class to concrete examples in art and architecture.
  2. Students will make connections and comparisons between different locations in different countries and continents.
  3. In their submitted field lab work, students will combine creativity in photography and/or drawings with analysis using mathematical ideas.