“Ars Longa, Vita Brevis” by Ann Witheridge

Hippocrates refusing the gifts of Artaxerxes by Anne-Louis Girodet

The motto of our studio “Ars Longa, Vita Brevis” ‘Art is Long, Life is Short’ suggests that our artistic endeavors and study will outstrip our lifetime. This quote originates not from the textbooks of a great painter but from the physician Hippocrates. For Art and Science have always been linked.

Indeed the Latin word “ars” does not translate purely as ‘art’ but as craft, technique, and science.

In my last post I wrote about Leonardo, who though considered an artist was really a polymath and all-round genius.

There are many other artists who were also great scientists and researchers. I have always appreciated Maria Sibylla Merian for her botanical artwork, but she was really a naturalist; Sir David Attenborough considers her the foremost entomologist. The word artist really incorporates much more than the art of painting and drawing.

Illustration by Maria Sibylla Merian

As painters and artist we should not be singular in our approach to art. We are inspired by many art forms; dance, photography, film, illustration as well as painting. And when we continue to study our subject matter is equally as broad; we look at art materials and their properties, at the science of colour, light, cloud studies, anatomy, perspective and much more.

We should treat our artistic journey not solely as creative but as multidisciplinary. Self-expression and creativity have their place, but do not underestimate the importance of systematic study.

The ‘Ars” in our moto refers to much more than just painting. The ‘ars” is craft, technique, and science. So indeed, Ars Longa and Vita Brevis for us as painters and scientists alike.

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