Pasteur and the Pleasures of Art

Bert Hansen, Professor of History at Baruch College of The City University of New York
Event date
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18:00 - 19:30
Green Templeton College
43 Woodstock Road
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Lecture Theatre

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Lectures and seminars
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Disabled access?
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The fine arts played many important roles throughout Louis Pasteur’s life, but his passion for art and his deep friendships with leading artists have been underappreciated by scholars and biographers alike. As Professor Hansen's research has demonstrated, after Pasteur developed his eye and his sensitivity with drawing lessons during his teen years, he was engaged with art (especially drawing, painting, and sculpture) in a variety of ways at all stages of his professional career. Artists became dear friends, and one of them Albert Edelfelt was treated like a member of the family. Pasteur exhibited a strong personal loyalty to artists such as Jean-Jacques Henner, Jean-Joseph Perraud, and Auguste Pointelin, who shared his origins in eastern parts of France. His friends Max Claudet and Paul Dubois, along with his nephew Lucien Laurent-Gsell, created lasting images of this man of science. Pasteur was often accepted by artists as a peer. Additionally, Pasteur used art to shape his reputation.

The speaker will argue that it seems likely that links might be found between Pasteur’s varied engagements with art and his scientific work, but concrete examples remain to be elucidated. The memory and image of Louis Pasteur even today is shaped not only by his major achievements in science and medicine, but by many pieces of art: by painted portraits, news drawings, and cartoons; by the often visited tomb; by the Institute which still houses the paintings and sculptures he collected for it; and by monumental statues in parks around the world.