Geometric Prints | History: Geometric Art & Design | Part 1

Geometric Prints | History: Geometric Art & Design | Part 1

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In terms of geometric prints I'm writing this article to give a very brief introduction to some of the the history of geometric art, design and its antiquity through to modern day geometric work in the digital 21st century (multiple parts). To write thoroughly an exhaustive 1,000+ page book could be written about the very large amount of artists, geometric art influences and large body of work pertaining to this topic. I'm by no means an expert and I'm influenced in my own work by geometry, geometric art & design and fascinated by its creation throughout cultural history spanning thousands of years.

To understand geometry applied to architecture, design, computer science, mosaics, fashion patterns (textiles), geometric art and the myriad of reproduced geometric prints we first need to go back to square one, Summer. The Sumerian civilization of present-day southern Iraq (ancient Mesopotamia) dates to around 4000 BC. Experts agree Babylonian mathematics dates to between 5000 - 3000 BC and was scribed on cuneiform clay tablets. Cuneiform is one of, if not the first written system. Mathematics and the cuneiform writing system are some of the first ancient examples of geometry in use. 

Cuneiform Tablet

Cuneiform Writing & Geometry

The Great Pyramid of Giza |  Babylonian Sculpture

Geometry Mesopotamia

Mathematics was used in Summer and based on a sexagesimal number system. Egyptians used maths for building, taxing the public for cooking oil & astronomy. Geometry in Greece came later (501 to 600 AD) and its maths still in use today was used by and in some cases created by well known mathematicians Euclid (phi by representing the golden ratio/mean), Pythagoras (Pythagoras Theorem), AristotleArchimedes and others. The Fibonacci Sequence having  a strong relationship to the golden mean became prominent from 1202 & It was named after Italian mathematician Leonardo of Pisa, later in life known as Fibonacci (1170 – 1250). It was first used  by Pingala and in Indian mathematics, however Fibonacci was the first to introduce the mathematical sequence to European cultures in his book Liber Abaci. The Fibonacci sequence while being used in Mathematics was later in time more broadly applied to art, design and used for determining divine proportions.

The Fibonacci Sequence

Golden Ratio - Fibonacci

A-format paper is not based on the golden ratio and is sometimes confused as being used for its design. A format paper is based on The Lichtenberg Ratio 1: 1.4142 (18th Century) whereby each paper size is one half of the area of the next increase in paper size. The standardized ISO paper system is based on this aspect ratio. The Lichtenberg Ratio was economically practical for use with paper formats & publishing.

The greeks were one of the first civilisations to broadly apply geometric principles to sculpture, architecture & in terms of this article more traditional art-forms. In earlier millennia geometric art was much more simplified and geometry in its early beginnings was mainly applied to numeric systems, calendars, astronomy and mathematics, not art and design. In Mesoamerica (Olmec, Maya, Aztec,Toltec) geometry and math was also applied. Similar to parts of the east it was ingrained in their religious beliefs, pyramids (architecture), astronomical systems, rituals, calendars and people's everyday lives. This is why culturally geometric symbols, motifs (patterns) were then used to create beautiful art and design.

Temple - Chichén Itzá, Mexico

Geometric Mayan Temple

Greek Artwork & Pottery

Geometric Prints / Art

Greek art and greek geometric art (including its more decorative art) reached great heights between 900 BC – 700 BC during the greek dark ages (geometric period) and it's cultural epicentre was Athens. Much of Greeces rich traditional art was in the form of clay pottery (with applied painting), sculptures and architecture. Metal cast figures were also common. Persian (Iranian) geometric art and design (Islamic) was aesthetically more complex than early greek work, brilliantly executed and quite pleasing to the eye. Some early pottery from the Uruk Persian period dates to 4000 - 3000 BC. Persian artwork and geometric patterns were commonly used architecturally in Mosques along with other art and design based mediums. The time spans in which geometric artwork was created covers incredibly long periods of time across multiple civilisations, even until it's present day creation. Pablo Picasso once famously said "Good artists copy, great artists steal" and in terms of ancient times there are traces of cross cultural influences & knowledge transfer in terms of art and design across continents and civilizations.

Persian Mosque

Geometric Prints

The Advent of the Printing Press:

In 1439 the first printing press know as "Gutenberg" printing press was created by Johannes Gutenberg and is largely attributed as the first means of producing books and essentially prints at scale (large amounts). While not the first type of printing used it enabled affordable mass production of books though the use of hand-moulded movable metal type. Compared to earlier Chinese "Tang Dynasty" woodblock printing (601 - 700 AD) it was a much improved technology. As the German Gutenberg printing press became more widely used it allowed the Renaissance to spread across countries in Europe. The Gutenberg printing press was used to print the Gutenberg Bible. The Gutenberg printing press was incredibly important historically & in terms of modern publishing and printing. In time the Gutenberg printing press was proceeded by other forms of printing including industrialised offset-lithography, screen printing and Giclée inkjet printing.

Gutenberg Printing Press

During the Renaissance (french term meaning rebirth) period across Europe between 1400 - 1700 Leonardo da Vinci (1452 –1519) the Italian polymath created artwork (some geometric) and was inspired by geometry, mathematics along with other disciplines including science and engineering. Michelangelo also Italian born (1475 – 1564) during the same period was inspired by the golden ratio in his work including within the Sistine Chapel. While some geometric art is easily perceived to be geometric-based work, some artists like Michelangelo & Leonardo da Vinci applied geometric principles to art sometimes in much more subtle ways, not noticeable to the eye.

Red Chalk Self Portrait & Vitruvian Man  - Leonardo da Vinci 

 Leonardo da Vinci

Mona Lisa - Leonardo da Vinci 

Mona Lisa

Sistine Chapel - Michelangelo (Painting & Sculptures)

Sistine Chapel - Michelangelo

In future visit again to view Geometric Prints Part Two (20th & 21st Century) and updates to this article.


Limited Edition Prints

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