Thursday, May 10, 2007

cascada post 10

The Impossible Art of Oscar Reutersvärd

Above you see the the "impossible trident" also called "blivet" and many other things. I first saw it back in the 1960's, possibly you did too. Or maybe you saw this version back in 1965:

Boy, I'll bet you're glad your member is not the middle tine, it's really weird! That's not the art of Oscar Reutersvärd. But his art, or drawings are certainly similar, and date back to 1934. Who was he? He was a Swedish artist who lived from 1915 to 2002. He was professor of art history and theory at Lund University in Sweden. He wrote journal articles and did serious stuff, but he became famous for his 2500 or so pieces of impossible art, which was really his life work. It all started when he was a college student bored in class one day (weren't we all?) doodling on a piece of paper. He started with a six-pointed star and then filled in between the points of the star with cubes .. and then realized that the perspective was off, or something else was wrong .. the thing looked plausible but was clearly impossible. That was the first piece of impossible art, done back in 1934. By 1965, when the "impossible trident" appeared, he had already made hundreds of pieces of impossible art, all done in what he called "Japanese perspective" (I'm not sure why). This simply meant that parallel lines going off to infinity don't come together at a point but remain parallel. We would call it orthographic projection. Anyway, over time he became famous, at least in Sweden, for his strange impossible images and so they honored him with a postage stamp of his first impossible drawing:

There were actually three stamps, each with a different Reutersvärd drawing. You can easily poke around the internet and find the other two.

I accidentally discovered these cubes a couple of years ago while whiling away my retirement hours trying to learn a little POV-Ray, wonderful free ray-tracing software. I happened upon this German site with interesting POV-Ray images and the source code used to create them. One image was of cubes arranged in this strange way. Here is the image I saw:

I downloaded the zip file containing the source code and was amazed to find that just one page of code created the picture above. I modified it ever so slightly and ran it through POV-Ray to create my own large version of the same image, which, if your still here, you can see by clicking here. Boy they look real, but impossible. The site had no mention of Reutersvärd and it was only later that I learned he was the originator of this arrangement of cubes, and eventually some 2500 drawings of impossible figures. Here is a taste of a few:

So, you get the idea, of the strange impossible art of Oscar Reutersvärd. I will say a bit more in my next posting.

If you would like this posting as a pdf file click here.


Anonymous said...

Very Cool!


JB said...

I'm glad you liked it, John.