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Most Memorable Golden Ratio Examples in Modern Art

May 26, 2016
Alias of Ksenija Pantelić

Something deep in the core of all of us regards the golden ratio as beautiful, a fact that many artists and architects have employed for thousands of years. The different golden ratio examples and the use of this formula, viewed to help create the most pleasing images to the eye, aids numerous artists, architects, designers, and even musicians, towards a perfectly balanced harmony. The value of the golden ratio in contemporary art is possibly not as rich as is the case with examples of High Renaissance paintings by Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, or much later, artists of the early 20th century, but its importance as one of the compositional tools can not be dismissed. The investigations into the perception of the eye and the need to understand the world around us have been major concerns for different artists for many centuries. The golden ration formula applicable in the visual art’s field is seen in the golden rectangle, the golden spiral that follows the Fibonacci number series, geometrical abstraction, and the rule of thirds. The list that follows explores the different golden ratio examples across a variety of artistic disciplines. The examples bellow,  illustrate how the simple division of two lines influenced some of the most memorable works of modern art, and few examples of contemporary art pieces that showcase the interest of today’s artists for perfectly balanced and harmonious works.

Editors’ Tip: The Golden Section: Nature’s Greatest Secret (Wooden Books)

This small but conscience volume illustrates the remarkable construction of the golden ratio and the fascination of the world for the different examples where this magical pattern, is visible. Seen to represent a formula that is found in the intricate designs located in different shapes of nature, this pattern is instinctively considered beautiful and represents the universal law of creation as well. Referencing art, architecture, philosophy, nature, mathematics, geometry, and music, this beautifully illustrative book, is a useful handbook on the golden section that is both interesting for the more experienced and knowledgeable mathematician and to the artists with just a passing interest in the golden section philosophy and formula. Featured image in slider: Shootababylone – Golden Ratio Fractions. Image via Devintart.com

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Georges Seurat - Bathers at Asnières - Mathematics and Art

Dr. Mario Livio made a very interesting claim in the book The Golden Ratio about the paintings of the French Post-Impressionist painter Georges Seurat. Important for his innovative technique of building the surface of his paintings with dots, method known as pointillism, the claim suggests that Seurat “ attacked every canvas with the golden ratio”. For the creation of his painting Bathers at Asnières, the compositional lines suggest a conscious decision to use the golden ratio as well as the rule of thirds. The painter was also known to use the golden ratio not only for the base of his compositions, but also in the depiction of figures in different scenes, where the golden ratio or the rule of thirds marked where the most important elements in the paintings should be placed. His interest didn’t stop just here since the painter was also known to have painted about one-quarter of his work on golden rectangle panels.

Featured image: Georgeus Seurat – Bathers at Asnières

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Piet Mondrian – Compositions in Red, Blue, and Yellow

Although at the beginning of his career, the Dutch artist Piet Mondrian painted many landscape painting, he later moved on to an abstract style of work. Believing that with the use of the vertical and horizontal lines, geometrical shapes, and primary colors, one is able to express reality, nature and logic, Mondrian also shared the views of Leonardo Da Vinci that saw mathematics and art as closely linked. His paintings Composition in Red, Blue, and Yellow show the reoccurring golden rectangle, one of the most frequently used compositional tools and shapes that fall under the golden ratio rule.

Featured image: Piet Mondrian – Composition in Red, Blue, and Yellow

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Kazimir Malevich – Suprematist Composition

During the early 20th century, seen as the period of early Modern Art, the dominance of Abstract art and the radical move away from the figurative expression was an influential period in art history. The Russian painter, Kazimir Malevich, influential for the rise of the geometric abstract art and theories about art, is an important figure of the Suprematist movement. His complete rejection of Realism was crucial for the understanding of the role of the art. The Realism, Malevich saw as a distraction away from the transcendental experience that the art was meant to evoke. Many of his paintings, may not fall under the golden ratio rule, but the use of geometrical shapes, the relationship between different elements in the paintings, as well as the divine aspect that the artist wished to express, is the reason why Malevich found his place on our list of golden ratio art examples.

Featured image: Kazimir Malevich – Suprematist Composition

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Salvador Dali – The Sacrament of the Last Supper

The Surrealist painter, Salvador Dali, famous for his paintings that depict the dream-like worlds of our subconscious, in his painting The Sacrament of the Last Supper, displayed his knowledge about the golden ration. Taking inspiration from Leonardo Da Vinci, Dali positioned the table exactly at the golden section of the height of his painting. His entire painting is in fact framed in a golden rectangle and he didn’t stop there. The positioning of the two disciples at Christ’s side, Dali placed at the golden sections of the width of the composition. The extensive use of the golden ratio, showcases the artist’s need to not only create the image that is in a perfect balance, but also that is the most pleasing to the public’s eye.

Featured image: Salvador Dali – The Sacrament of the Last Supper

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Le Corbusier – Architecture and the Golden Ratio

One of the strongest advocates for the application of the Golden Ratio to art and architecture was the famous Swiss-French architect and painter Le Corbusier. His interest towards the Aesthetics and Golden Ratio are linked with the artist’s interest in basic forms and structures underlying natural phenomenon and his search for harmony and balance in his architectural works. Richard Padovan states in his book Proportion: Science, Philosophy, Architecture, that Le Corbusier, placed systems of harmony and proportion at the center of his design philosophy, and his faith in the mathematical order of the universe was closely bound to the golden section and the Fibonacci series. Concerned with architecture and urban planning, Le Corbusier developed the Modulor, taking inspiration from Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man. The artists focused his practice in the discovery of mathematical proportions in the human body,and he wished to use this knowledge to improve both the appearance and function of architecture. Many believe that the UN Secretariat Building and the dividing lines on the façade were based on the golden ratios. This was just one of many buildings that Le Corbusier designed and signed the project as the leading architect.

Featured image: UN Secretariat Building

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Graphic Designers and the Famous Logos

There is much debate whether or not the famous Apple logo was in fact created with attention paid towards the golden ratio, and the similar discussions are held in relation to the Google and even Pepsi logos. Many would argue that in fact, the famous and already mentioned Fibonacci numbers and the golden spiral are in fact responsible for many graphic designs today and the mentioned three. The need to create the most pleasing image is for sure something that the consumerist nature of the world around us asks of us to do and it would not be a surprise that the important divine formula was used here as well. The design methods behind the Apple logo and the golden ratio relationship is analyzied for you here.

Featured image: Apple Design and the Golden Ratio

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Golden Ratio in Music

In addition to existing in nature, art, and architecture, it has been hypothesized that great classical composers, like Mozart, had an awareness of the Golden Ratio. Interestingly, the Golden Ratio appears in a couple of different aspects of music. It is visible in the intervals in the western diatonic scale and in the arrangement of the piece of music itself. H.E. Huntley, author of the Divine Proportion, suggests that the golden rectangle is more pleasing to the eye comparing to the perfect square, due to the interval it takes for the human eye to explore within its borders. The design of musical instruments, such as a violin follows the golden number, known as phi, as a rule in the construction that would be most pleasing to handle. The world of music is a vast area of art and for some possibly the best example of the true abstraction. It is interesting to think that some of the famous musical pieces were influenced by the art of numbers.

What we have attempted to create with this list, as mentioned in the beginning, are just a few of the examples that would support the use of the golden ratio and describe the golden ratio examples in art, music, architecture, and design. The nature of human beings is the one of an explorer and most of us if faced with an uncertainty would attempt to discover the formula, origin, and functionality of the thing that puzzles us. The golden ratio and the golden number that follows from the simple division of the two lines was in many cases viewed as an example of the divine universal power that aided with the creation of the world. Regardless of what we may feel in relation to this question, we cannot avoid its importance in art and the heritage that we are left with.

All images used for illustrative purposes only. Featured image in slider: Violin and the Golden Ratio. Image via google.rs