INNER SIGHT: JAN EVANGELISTA PURKYNE, THE LABORATORY OF VISUALITY AND MODERN ART
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At the beginning of the 20th century, modern art underwent a fundamental transformation. Understandably, this was a very complex phenomenon, which was connected with the immanent development of art and photography and with advances in the scientific understanding of the physiological-psychological function of seeing and optical perception. Jan Evangelista Purkyne (1787-1869) was one of the first European scientists to study the physiology of sight and sense perception. At the centre of his empirical research was subjective perception, the autonomy of the inner pictorial vision, the link between seeing and thinking, and between sight and the way it was processed in memory. The article, which is divided into several sections, treats the direct and indirect impact of Purkyne's research on modern art and art theory. The text is structured into six fields: I- Optical Phantoms; II- Memory Traces; III- The Innocent Eye; IV- Visual Vertigo; V- Acoustic Figures and Seeing through Hearing; VI- The 'Optical Opinion' of Jan Evangelista Purkyne and the 'Inner Sight' of Vincenc Kramár. In his physiological texts, Purkyne touched on issues that later preoccupied Frantisek Kupka, Antonin Procházka, Frantisek Krejci (a psychologist close to the artistic avant-garde), Bohumil Kubista, Emil Filla and Vincenc Kramár. In his physiological-philosophical studies, Purkyne treated the process of perception, from the glance of the 'innocent eye' to the complex mental record of what was perceived and experienced. Purkyne's interest in the connections between the senses (sight, hearing and touch) later found an echo in modern synaesthesia. His experiments with visual vertigo anticipated op-art, among other thing. Purkyne's role in the area of Central Europe is comparable, to a certain degree, with Goethe's influence on modern art. Goethe's legacy was a subject of detailed study at the exhibition on the origins of abstraction at the Parisian Musée d'Orsay in 2003. Reference was also made there to Purkyne's contribution. Thus far, however, his 'laboratory of visuality' has not been thoroughly examined in the context of modern art.
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