Mathematical Paintings of Crockett Johnson
July 21, 2017 6:20 AM   Subscribe

From 1965 until his death in 1975 Crockett Johnson painted over 100 works relating to mathematics and mathematical physics. Of these paintings, eighty are found in the collections of the National Museum of American History. We present them here, with related diagrams from the artist’s library and papers.

Note that the "expand" link by each entry reveals detailed information.

Bonus link: A Geometry Theorem Looking for a Geometric Proof
posted by Wolfdog (16 comments total) 56 users marked this as a favorite
 
Best of the web!
posted by Glomar response at 6:24 AM on July 21 [3 favorites]


Wow. This is the person that wrote Harold and the Purple Crayon. These are really something!
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 6:29 AM on July 21 [4 favorites]


It's funny, but I can't help but think most of these would make wonderful prog rock album covers.
posted by fings at 6:35 AM on July 21 [4 favorites]


I call it: Moonlight on an Empty Minecraft Bed
posted by Kabanos at 6:38 AM on July 21 [3 favorites]


Ooooh
posted by cortex at 7:07 AM on July 21 [2 favorites]


Had to intentionally close that site lest my day disappear..
posted by Captain Chesapeake at 7:27 AM on July 21 [1 favorite]


I am wordless.
posted by fairmettle at 7:27 AM on July 21


What beautiful shades of purple!
posted by Nanukthedog at 7:56 AM on July 21


First heard about this on a podcast a couple weeks ago, and it's killing me because I can't remember which one now.

When I heard it, it felt as if a missing memory from my childhood had been restored; the question of who Crockett Johnson was and what he did outside of the decade-and-a-half in which he made the "Harold" books and "Barnaby" comic strip. So it's not just delightful to know that he'd pursued his love of math in his idiosyncratic way, it was somehow really satisfying to know that he'd done this. Like finally getting closure to a story you'd only heard a part of, decades earlier, but whose lack of resolution had occasionally bothered you for the years up until now.
posted by ardgedee at 7:59 AM on July 21 [3 favorites]


Wow. This is really neat stuff. Thanks.
posted by eclectist at 8:26 AM on July 21


Awesome. I wonder how many of these represent his original discoveries--at least one is a construction of his own invention:

"One may construct a [regular] heptagon given an angle of pi divided by seven. ... According to Crockett Johnson's later account, in the fall of 1973, while having lunch in the city of Syracuse on Sicily during a tour of the Mediterranean, he toyed with seven toothpicks, arranging them in various patterns. Eventually he created an angle with his menu and wine list and arranged the seven toothpicks within the angle in crisscross patterns until his arrangement appeared as is shown in the painting."

Good choice of location in which to discover new geometry, too.
posted by TreeRooster at 8:35 AM on July 21 [1 favorite]


Everyone knows the best mathematical theorems are discovered where the wine or beer is really good.
posted by ardgedee at 9:04 AM on July 21


Wonderful. There is an abstract Kandinsky-esque quality to these paintings.
posted by Fizz at 9:52 AM on July 21


Thank you.
One of my childhood favorites -- Barkis:
https://www.k-state.edu/english/nelp/purple/characters/cartoons3.html
posted by hank at 1:31 PM on July 21


How cool. Anyone know if it's possible to get prints of these? (Suitable for framing)
posted by yoga at 5:19 PM on July 22


Ah, shoot. My link to a page in the first website is superseded by the much more complete discussion of Johnson's discovery (and where he made it) in the Bonus Link of the FPP... so check that out!

As recompense, here is Johnson's original work approximately squaring the circle!
posted by TreeRooster at 1:32 PM on July 25


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