Looking to Heaven for inspiration -Stargazers special guest twinkles

Astronomy and the Visual Arts


From Chaco Canyon in New Mexico to God the Architect to Van Gogh’s Starry Night to Lynette Cook, Astronomical Artist, Dr. Richard Poss provided a historiography of visual arts in relation to astronomy at the SaddleBrooke SkyGazers meeting on March 12.

About 60 people attended the meeting with this captivating review of visual arts. Dr. Poss has visited Chaco Canyon many times where ancient paintings may have depicted the supernova of 1054. Another image, originating in 1250, God the Architect shows an image of God holding the Earth without form. With the assistance of a compass, God creates the world we live in.

The 1627 painting by Guido Reni of the Immaculate Conception depicts the Virgin Mary with 12 stars around her head while she stands on a crescent moon. Look up to see a similar view in the domes of cathedrals throughout Europe.

Donato Creti published Astronomical Observations while working in Balogna Italy. His paintings show one or more subjects on the ground as they observe objects in the night sky. The objects are painted as though they were viewed through an instrument, magnified for the viewer. As an artist, his motivation was to provide images to the Pope Clement XI to obtain funding for an observatory. The scheme was successful and an observatory was installed at the University of Bologna.

One of the most easily recognized paintings of western art, Starry Night, by Vincent van Gogh was painted in 1889. It is a depiction of the early morning sky from the east facing window of his room in the asylum at Saint-Remy-de-Provence. The brightest star in the painting may be the “morning star”, Venus. In Starry Night over the Rhone, Van Gogh captures the stars, the river and reflections in another classic.

In our more modern world, the paintings of Max Ernst and Lynette Cook were displayed. Lynette Cook is one of many modern astronomical artists who have made a career imagining the worlds we may some day visit.

Lockwood Carlson of SaddleBrooke provided the appetizer for the meeting with a short discussion of dark energy, dark matter, super massive black holes, and the expansion of the universe. If this kind of mental exercise sounds interesting to you, click this link for more information on the SaddleBrooke SkyGazers club.


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