While I was reading about the influence of golden-age Vienna on modern medicine and painters like Gustav Klimt, I discovered that Klimt’s trademark patterns (the “blobs” and orbs you see above, from Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I) were influenced by early studies of cells under the microscope.
Carl von Rokitansky founded the Second Vienna School of Medicine and eventually befriended Klimt. Rokitansky was a huge influence in the early days of modern science-based medicine, and allowed Klimt to view some of the tissue and bacterial slides from the medical school. It’s a fascinating story, check out more in this interview between Eric Kandel and Jonah Lehrer.

We can talk at length about the similarities of science and art, but this is one of the finest examples of where each feeds from the other. To quote Eric Kandel again, in a note to paste on your wall:

“…[artists] have insight into the human mind that often precedes the insight that scientists have, because scientists need to design experiments, and then carry them out in order to do it. They cannot do it by intuition, alone, as can writers and painters.”

Found @ itsokaytobesmart.com

Also, if you’re in the Los Angeles area, don’t forget to see Klimt’s work firsthand at the Getty!