Bubble Bubble Toil And Trouble

Possible Classroom Concepts: Science – Transparent, Opaque, And Translucent Objects, Astronomy, Light

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Joseph Wright of Derby , Leonardo da Vinci

Painting, Drawing Forms, Color Mixing

It has been “a long and winding road” to find a subject for this post. I first wanted to do something St Patrick’s Day related. I really wasn’t familiar with any Irish artists or crafts, so I decided to start investigating rainbow paintings and figured I’d correlate with science and the light spectrum.


I found  Joseph Wright of Derby’s  “Landscape With Rainbow”, which upon first impression, seemed to fit the bill. Find a brief Wright bio here. However, upon further investigation I learned so much more. Wright did paint landscapes like the one seen above, but also small group portraits in a chiaroscuro style (paintings made with a single light source causing strong light and shadow) similar to Rembrandt and de la Tour. What set his paintings apart from all the rest was the themes he depicted. He was close friends with scientists and inventors. He began painting groups of everyday people viewing scientific experiments. Along with writers of the time, Wright helped document the Period of Enlightenment. I found the following three examples of Wright’s scientific paintings.

                        “The Alchemist”      Above: “An Experiment on a Bird in an Air                                                                                              Pump”                                                                                                                                                                    Below: “A Philosopher Lecturing on the                                                                                                    Orrery”

In the first two paintings, experiments are being performed. The thing that purely amazed me is that these paintings were created in the 1770’s around the time of the Revolutionary War. When thinking about Colonial America, I never realized such science was occurring in Europe. “The Alchemist” depicts the discovery of phosphorous some one hundred years prior. It blows my mind. I never thought about beakers and such existing so early. So if you are studying a unit on experiments in science, why not share these two paintings with your students. Find a video about “An Experiment on a Bird in an Air Pump” here.

I have to say that I was kind of excited when I found Wright’s science experiment correlation because my all time favorite blogger, Cassie Stephens, recently taught a science related art project found here. Upon seeing this lesson,  I so wanted to share it with you. Simply introduce Joseph Wright of Derby and his scientific experiment paintings as a motivation. If you are studying  transparent, opaque, and translucent objects, Cassie’s lesson is perfect. Observe beakers and test tubes with your students. Talk about how they are transparent. Use Cassie’s YouTube video to teach drawing beaker forms. The watercolor paint used to create the liquid in your beakers is translucent. The beaker shapes the students cut out for collaging are opaque. Love the bubble drawing and printing part of this lesson also. So, if you are studying surface tension or spheres, go for it. Bubbles are also slightly translucent.

A Philosopher Lecturing on the Orrery” is an astronomy painting. An orrery is a mechanical model of the solar system. As the title implies, the people are crowded around the model while a teacher lectures. To learn more about the painting and see a photograph of an actual orrery look here

Looking for another art related tidbit to add to your astronomy unit. Back in the later 1400s and early 1500s when people believed the earth was flat and that the sun and moon revolved around us, Leonardo da Vinci wrote in his journals “No Si Muove” which means “The sun does not move.” I’ve covered Da Vinci in some other posts here and here.

Life has the arts sprinkled in, so why not sprinkle a little into your science curriculum? I hope you have found something you can use.

‘POP’ by again real soon!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s