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Nineteenth Century alchemist paintings
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adammclean
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 Posted: Fri Jun 8th, 2012 09:52 am
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Carl Lavoie recently alerted me to some images of alchemists in their

laboratories by the Scottish artist James Nasmyth. He was the son of

the well known artist Alexander Nasmyth 1758–1840. His son, though

an accomplished artist turned instead to engineering and was one of the major

figures in creating heavy industrial machinery in the mid 19th century in Scotland.

Carl found three paintings. I also have some photographs I obtained some years

ago of drawings, no doubt made in preparation for some similar themed paintings.

 

 

Attached Image (viewed 6282 times):

Nasmyth - Alchemist in his laboratory 1.jpg

adammclean
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 Posted: Fri Jun 8th, 2012 09:52 am
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Attached Image (viewed 4077 times):

Nasmyth - Alchemist in his laboratory 2.jpg

adammclean
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 Posted: Fri Jun 8th, 2012 09:53 am
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Attached Image (viewed 2852 times):

Nasmyth - Alchemist in his laboratory 3.jpg

Alexander Guthrie Stewart
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 Posted: Fri Jun 8th, 2012 10:38 am
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Those are nice, especially the way the light changes through the day or seasons.  Although the last picture looks like it has been reversed into a mirror image. 

adammclean
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 Posted: Fri Jun 8th, 2012 10:47 am
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Why do you think it reversed ? The alchemist seems to be holding up a candle in his right hand. I do not see this as a reversed image.

 

Paul Ferguson
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 Posted: Fri Jun 8th, 2012 11:51 am
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There's an interesting reference to one of them in the Faraday correspondence, letter 2090:

http://books.google.com/books?id=vKesSblgySgC&pg=PA699&lpg=PA699&dq=%22James+Nasmyth%22+alchemy&source=bl&ots=IDIm1wqUca&sig=ZGkAQst-ESMTxxIz96PmOKbMFZU&hl=fr&sa=X&ei=jtfRT6ydJsXa0QWn-9yqBA&ved=0CE8Q6AEwAjg8#v=onepage&q&f=false


And here's a funny 'esoteric' one - what's all this about?

http://www.flickr.com/photos/etchingsplus/4140238229/in/set-72157622397555882

"It is very detailed, there is a fight breaking out by the left hand leg of the table!"

Carl Lavoie
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 Posted: Fri Jun 8th, 2012 01:49 pm
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.

"James Naysmyth (1808 - 1890) [...] wrote is autobiography in 1883 ..."

 

Maybe he alludes in it for his interest in the alchemical themes.

Alexander Guthrie Stewart
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 Posted: Fri Jun 8th, 2012 02:12 pm
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Ach, never mind, looking closer it is a different laboratory compared to the first two.  I saw the three in a line and then wondered why the bottom one seemed to be looking back the other way compared to the top two.

Paul Ferguson
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 Posted: Fri Jun 8th, 2012 02:33 pm
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Carl Lavoie wrote:
.

"James Naysmyth (1808 - 1890) [...] wrote is autobiography in 1883 ..."

 

Maybe he alludes in it for his interest in the alchemical themes.


Part of it is available on-line. He refers briefly to one of the alchemist drawings here:

http://books.google.com/books?id=rGGeUibT7vUC&pg=PA266&dq=%22james+nasmyth%22+alchemist&hl=fr&sa=X&ei=4_7RT66JPK3Y0QWo5_SZBA&ved=0CDUQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false

Paul Ferguson
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 Posted: Fri Jun 8th, 2012 03:23 pm
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Carl Lavoie wrote:
.

"James Naysmyth (1808 - 1890) [...] wrote is autobiography in 1883 ..."

 

Maybe he alludes in it for his interest in the alchemical themes.


I wonder if the inspiration was Washington Irving, the early 19th century American writer and creator of Rip Van Winkle? Nasmyth seems to have greatly admired his writings. One of Irving's stories, The Student of Salamanca, features an alchemist:

http://books.google.com/books?id=IJkHThIKcS0C&pg=PA384&dq=%22washington+irving%22+salamanca+student&hl=fr&sa=X&ei=OgjST7fHFIGm0QXDz42DBA&ved=0CEQQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q&f=false

adammclean
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 Posted: Fri Jun 8th, 2012 03:34 pm
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Paul, you are such a great researcher. This is great story. I will try and get a copy which I can print out to read through. The Google Books windows I find a bit limiting.

It does seem on a quick skim through that this resonates with the Nasmyth paintings.

Paul Ferguson
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 Posted: Fri Jun 8th, 2012 03:44 pm
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adammclean wrote:
Paul, you are such a great researcher. This is great story. I will try and get a copy which I can print out to read through. The Google Books windows I find a bit limiting.

It does seem on a quick skim through that this resonates with the Nasmyth paintings.


<blushes>

I think you can download a free .pdf from here. It's part of the Bracebridge Hall volume:

http://www.ebooks-library.com/author.cfm/AuthorID/179

adammclean
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 Posted: Fri Jun 8th, 2012 04:29 pm
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Great. I will reformat it for html and put it up on the alchemy website.

Paul Ferguson
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 Posted: Fri Jun 8th, 2012 04:44 pm
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It's interesting to compare these with his purely 'industrial' paintings, like this one of a steamhammer.

Attached Image (viewed 2012 times):

steamhammer.jpg

Carl Lavoie
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 Posted: Fri Jun 8th, 2012 07:21 pm
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.

Are the footnotes about the lampes perpétuelles really from W. Irving, or the editor ?

 

http://www.telelib.com/authors/I/IrvingWashington/prose/bracebridgehallvol1/bracebridgehall026.html

 

Last edited on Fri Jun 8th, 2012 07:23 pm by Carl Lavoie


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