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Old 16th May 2020, 10:12 AM   #1
wardenclyffe
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Help solve a mystery: Is this an illustration from a science textbook?

Hello Science Types,

I'm trying to track down some information about a painting. I sense that it was used as an illustration for a bio-chem textbook or something. I'm trying to find where it was originally used. If anyone recognizes it specifically, or the style, I'd be interested to learn more about it. For those of you with a large sciencey social media presence, let the word go forth.

Thanks for helping,
Ward

Oh, P.S. Here's the image: https://www.incollect.com/listings/d...gouache-168210
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Old 16th May 2020, 02:53 PM   #2
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Not a text book. tooo, umm, esoteric? It says "cell compared to machanism".

Perhaps a cover for a magazine? "Work for hire" so no signature. Site says 50s, I'd say pre-53 when DNA became all the rage. Or is the a neuron? Date it thusly?
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Old 16th May 2020, 03:55 PM   #3
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I can't find the artist, although reproductions abound in galleries. The lack of an artist's name or signature leads me to agree that it was originally a work for hire by a magazine, journal, or similar.
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Old 16th May 2020, 04:35 PM   #4
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I doubt it's from a science textbook, because by itself the gear doesn't say much about anything. It's a rather odd gear, and my first guess is that it comes from a washing machine transmission or something similar. Some piece of machinery meant to rotate but also to power a reciprocating mechanism or crank.

If it's an actual illustration of an existing gear, I think it was intended for some degree of precision, looking at the teeth. Maybe from some journal dealing with the manufacturing process.
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Old 16th May 2020, 04:41 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by bruto View Post
I doubt it's from a science textbook, because by itself the gear doesn't say much about anything. It's a rather odd gear, and my first guess is that it comes from a washing machine transmission or something similar. Some piece of machinery meant to rotate but also to power a reciprocating mechanism or crank.

If it's an actual illustration of an existing gear, I think it was intended for some degree of precision, looking at the teeth. Maybe from some journal dealing with the manufacturing process.
The gear appears to be the wheel from a worm and wheel gearset. It's a useful mechanism for achieving very high ratios. It also tends not to be backdriveable, which can be very useful, or a pain in the ass, depending on what you are trying to design.
I agree that it's intended to drive some sort of reciprocating mechanism. Slowly.
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Old 16th May 2020, 06:41 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by bruto View Post
I doubt it's from a science textbook, because by itself the gear doesn't say much about anything. It's a rather odd gear, and my first guess is that it comes from a washing machine transmission or something similar. Some piece of machinery meant to rotate but also to power a reciprocating mechanism or crank.



If it's an actual illustration of an existing gear, I think it was intended for some degree of precision, looking at the teeth. Maybe from some journal dealing with the manufacturing process.
I agree. By itself the illustration doesn't convey much of anything. Regarding the description on the website, yes biochemical catalysis occurs within cells. Yes the molecules, often proteins, that carry out such reactions can be analogized to machines, but the illustration doesn't convey those ideas very well. I'm not sure what else could be the point.
What's odd about the gear is not the teeth but the two large mound-like structures one of which appears to be at the center and a larger one that is offset. There is another offset hole without a mound. I can't imagine what their purpose is or what they would represent.
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Old 16th May 2020, 06:55 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Trebuchet View Post
The gear appears to be the wheel from a worm and wheel gearset. It's a useful mechanism for achieving very high ratios. It also tends not to be backdriveable, which can be very useful, or a pain in the ass, depending on what you are trying to design.
I agree that it's intended to drive some sort of reciprocating mechanism. Slowly.
Yes, now that you mention it, those teeth look like those for a worm gear, which pretty much eliminates a washing machine transmission.

There's no size reference here, so I wonder if the gear is smaller than we think, and driven by, say, the shaft of a small motor. It's not at all uncommon to have the worm milled directly into a motor shaft. A movie projector maybe?

Just as an aside, I should mention that not all worm drives are unidirectional. Some vehicles had worm drive rear ends. Old Ford trucks did, and so did my first three Peugeots.
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Old 16th May 2020, 07:55 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Loss Leader View Post
I can't find the artist, although reproductions abound in galleries. The lack of an artist's name or signature leads me to agree that it was originally a work for hire by a magazine, journal, or similar.
Thanks everyone. Still looking. Loss Leader, can you point me to the reproductions in galleries? I think it's the same piece being advertised through differenct platforms, but I could be wrong.

I now own the piece (I paid a fraction of the asking price in the link in the OP). I bought it because I liked it and was able to get it cheap because the gallery was having a moving sale.

If I never find anything more about it, I will still like it, but like many of us, I can't stand not knowing.

The search continues!

Ward
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Old 16th May 2020, 08:57 PM   #9
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Somewhere buried in a shelf somewhere I probably have an illustration of the mechanism better than this, but a quick internet search comes up with this. The center hub of the gear just goes over a stub shaft to allow it to rotate, and a shaft in the offset hole drives a rod or piston, thus converting fast, low torque rotation to slow, high torque reciprocating motion.

http://westonk12engineering.org/robo...h-wormgear.JPG
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Old 16th May 2020, 09:27 PM   #10
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The Search by Image extension for Firefox seems to think it is a cake!

(So AI has not quite taken over the World yet.)
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Old 16th May 2020, 09:28 PM   #11
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Have you no art in your souls? The point is not the gear. The point is the contrast of the man made gear compared to the complexity of that cell.

It's an artist conception of a gear. I see the marks of a worm gear, but the outer diameter is flat, not dished. And somehow I too said "washing machine". But I tried googling images and it didn't turn up. It's probably been 55 years since I tore that washer down that far.

It's a worm gear drive for a piston injector pump. It gives a small shot of chlorine every 60 turns of the main pump. Honest.

Better story, might have as much chance of being true: That is an IBM Selectric typewriter ball. The gear is out of a printing press. My Bro worked for Addressograph-Multigraphics, and I have a bin full of pieces. Maybe I see a gear like that in there? The poster would have been a contrast to the lightning flying off the ball to the old fashioned letterpress?
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Old 16th May 2020, 09:36 PM   #12
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Ford TT truck axles, just about every gearbox on a Cat road grader mid 1930's to early 1980's
And a slew of early cargo trucks up to the late 1920's all used that type of gear system.

The reason being a 20 hp common car engine could now haul a heavy chassis with heavy loads at the legal speed limit of 15 mph. The worm gear also prevented runaway truck problems as it wouldn't roll at all unless under power.

In the case of Caterpillar graders it can lift and turn a massively heavy blade using several small clutches.
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Old 16th May 2020, 10:31 PM   #13
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I like the piston injector pump idea. The configuration of worm gears can vary depending on whether the worm itself is cylindrical or concave. As I recall, a concave worm might use a gear more or less like that. But I agree there's likely some artistic license there.

I think I may have one of those pumps down in the barn. I'll have to check it out.

I've coasted and bump started enough old Peugeots to say without any reservation that a coarse enough worm drive can be driven by the wheel.
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Old 17th May 2020, 05:32 AM   #14
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This is the closest match I've found for the gear (I wouldn't have found this without the suggestions in this thread):

https://www.alibaba.com/product-deta...72206b4a8RcZuc

I don't know if identifying the make and model of the gear will help me identify the purpose of the painting. I hope it does, but I have my doubts.

Ward
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Old 17th May 2020, 06:50 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by casebro View Post
Have you no art in your souls? The point is not the gear. The point is the contrast of the man made gear compared to the complexity of that cell.

It's an artist conception of a gear. I see the marks of a worm gear, but the outer diameter is flat, not dished. And somehow I too said "washing machine". But I tried googling images and it didn't turn up. It's probably been 55 years since I tore that washer down that far.

The outer diameter isn't dished, but the contact surface of each tooth, on the counterclockwise-facing surface, is.

Considering the precision of the depiction of the teeth, it's surprising that the "central" part of the hub isn't actually centered. It's offset to the left, and (by eyeball) also appears to be offset toward the point of view. Maybe for two different reciprocating linkages, one low-amplitude and one high—except they'd collide, plus there would be no room for the gear's actual hub.

If the illustration was intended to convey contemporary human ingenuity, it might have been a gear from an electromechanical data processing machine. My high school in the mid-70s had, in a store room, an IBM 407 Accounting Machine. It had been donated years earlier by some corporation, and never found an educational purpose. It weighed a ton (more or less) and was being scrapped, so I and a friend were allowed to disassemble it. I don't specifically remember a gear like the one illustrated, but it had a large motor and a lot of mechanical parts for driving the card feeding mechanisms and the printer. I wish I had kept more of the parts I collected from it, especially the patch panels, which would be awesome wall art today.
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Old 17th May 2020, 07:08 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by wardenclyffe View Post
This is the closest match I've found for the gear (I wouldn't have found this without the suggestions in this thread):

https://www.alibaba.com/product-deta...72206b4a8RcZuc

I don't know if identifying the make and model of the gear will help me identify the purpose of the painting. I hope it does, but I have my doubts.

Ward
That's really close, except that the herringbone teeth on that gear mean it would have been driven by a spur gear on the same axis rather than a worm. I don't think it's possible to do a herringbone worm.
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Old 17th May 2020, 09:09 AM   #17
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I actually favor the biology textbook idea. Someone pulled some sort of stock gear image to go with it.
I assume you've done a reverse image search. I tried but the auction site wasn't letting it work.
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Old 17th May 2020, 12:36 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by Trebuchet View Post
I actually favor the biology textbook idea. Someone pulled some sort of stock gear image to go with it.
I assume you've done a reverse image search. I tried but the auction site wasn't letting it work.
Please see: http://www.internationalskeptics.com...5#post13092815
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Old 17th May 2020, 12:44 PM   #19
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If nothing else comes of this, I'm just glad i learned the phrase "eccentric gear."

The terms mechanism and energetics in close proximity seem to relate to enzymes in organic chemistry. That's just from a google search, though. Energetics seems like a word that is used in everyday speech, but it's not. Without the "s" at the end it's a regular word, but with the "s" it seems to become a term of art or scientific term. I've also now learned the difference between organic chemistry and biochemistry.

Ward
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Old 17th May 2020, 12:47 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by Trebuchet View Post
I actually favor the biology textbook idea. Someone pulled some sort of stock gear image to go with it.
I assume you've done a reverse image search. I tried but the auction site wasn't letting it work.
I have. It just takes me to various online sites that are linked to the same gallery. I've had the painting for a number of months. I guess it takes a while for all those sites to realize that the painting has been sold. I'm glad it's still up, though. Makes it easier for me to link to the images.

Ward
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Old 17th May 2020, 12:51 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by bruto View Post
That's really close, except that the herringbone teeth on that gear mean it would have been driven by a spur gear on the same axis rather than a worm. I don't think it's possible to do a herringbone worm.
I know nothing about this. Even though I found that image of the gear, I have no idea what that gear would be used for. And it might be possible for the herringbone teeth to be driven by two different worm drives. I'm just playing with the possibility in my mind. I don't have a horse in this race.

Ward
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Old 17th May 2020, 01:38 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by wardenclyffe View Post
If nothing else comes of this, I'm just glad i learned the phrase "eccentric gear."

The terms mechanism and energetics in close proximity seem to relate to enzymes in organic chemistry. That's just from a google search, though. Energetics seems like a word that is used in everyday speech, but it's not. Without the "s" at the end it's a regular word, but with the "s" it seems to become a term of art or scientific term. I've also now learned the difference between organic chemistry and biochemistry.

Ward
Yes. Energetics and mechanism (certainly) are words that a biochemist studying enzymes or an organic chemist studying reaction mechanisms would use. Doesn't have much to do with an eccentric gear though.
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Old 17th May 2020, 03:14 PM   #23
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I have found out what makes these illustrations look wired. Gaouche. Why did they choose this medium when it looks flat?
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Old 17th May 2020, 03:55 PM   #24
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Helical gears, with their teeth at an angle run quieter than the simpler spur gear. It's because the helical pinion will engage the next tooth while still engaged to the previous tooth,making for a smooth transition. Unlike the spur with will 'clank' at the interchange.

But, helical gears will waste a good bit of energy with end thrust. Trigonometry will tell you how much .Add the friction that the thrust bearing has under that load too.

Enter the herringbone. The two helixes negate each other's end thrust. BUT, manufacturing cost is extreme- you need the gear and the pinion to be very precisely matched or they get noisy. I've never actually held one in my hands.

Helix gear costs are bad enough compared to spurs. Spur gears are perpendicular, interchange easily. Helixes need a left to mesh with a right, doubling inventory cost.

No, not counter-worms.

For fun look up "gear hobbing" and "worm gear whirrling".

And "diametral pitch" to calculate Imperial gears and Gear Module for Metric.

Then you will understand why I think the painting is a Neuron.
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Old 17th May 2020, 04:03 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by a_unique_person View Post
I have found out what makes these illustrations look wired. Gaouche. Why did they choose this medium when it looks flat?
Gouache is like post paint. It was common for illustration in the 1950s because it was cheap, easy to use, opaque, fast drying, water based, and the matte finish made it easy to reproduce.

Acrylic artist paints were widely available and used until later. There were spirit based acrylics like Magna and latex house paints, but artist quality water-based acrylics came around later.

That makes me think it is probably a magazine illustration. Although it could be a cover for a booklet or a chapter title page from a text book. Looks more like magazine work to me.

My guess would be that the gear is painted from a real gear. Trying to do that from imagination would be needlessly difficult with all the lighting and reflections. It think the center hole is supposed to be centered. It is pretty close. If it looks a bit off, I think that is just from the artist.

I'm not familiar with the scientific meaning of the words. Is that supposed to be a neuron? The artist is clearing trying to establish that there is some relationship between mechanism and energentics. The word "mechanism" is in the salmon color matching the gear and "energentics" in white-blue matching the neuron. The background fades from the salmon to the light blue symbolizing some type of transition between the two. We can even see that transition in both colors being used in the hyphen. It is illustrating a separateness but connection between the two concepts.

ETA: Nice purchase! It is a striking and slightly mysterious painting. And I like the frame that was added.
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Old 17th May 2020, 04:12 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by bruto View Post

I've coasted and bump started enough old Peugeots to say without any reservation that a coarse enough worm drive can be driven by the wheel.
There is a limited slip differential that makes use of that worm gear trait. Gleason-Thorsen. Helix angle is about 45 degrees. It's a complicated gear train, think woms between the two axles.
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Old 17th May 2020, 04:22 PM   #27
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Originally Posted by DevilsAdvocate View Post
Gouache is like post paint. It was common for illustration in the 1950s because it was cheap, easy to use, opaque, fast drying, water based, and the matte finish made it easy to reproduce.

Acrylic artist paints were widely available and used until later. There were spirit based acrylics like Magna and latex house paints, but artist quality water-based acrylics came around later.

That makes me think it is probably a magazine illustration. Although it could be a cover for a booklet or a chapter title page from a text book. Looks more like magazine work to me.

My guess would be that the gear is painted from a real gear. Trying to do that from imagination would be needlessly difficult with all the lighting and reflections. It think the center hole is supposed to be centered. It is pretty close. If it looks a bit off, I think that is just from the artist.

I'm not familiar with the scientific meaning of the words. Is that supposed to be a neuron? The artist is clearing trying to establish that there is some relationship between mechanism and energentics. The word "mechanism" is in the salmon color matching the gear and "energentics" in white-blue matching the neuron. The background fades from the salmon to the light blue symbolizing some type of transition between the two. We can even see that transition in both colors being used in the hyphen. It is illustrating a separateness but connection between the two concepts.

ETA: Nice purchase! It is a striking and slightly mysterious painting. And I like the frame that was added.
Thanks. The frame is very nice and I think most of the price I paid for the painting was for the frame.

Yes, it does have a magazine-y feel about it, but what kind of magazine would be carrying this type of ad and what's it advertising?

And I agree that the gear is probably painted from a real gear of some sort, either in a photo or sitting on the artist's table. It's just too weird to create out of whole cloth.

Ward
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Old 18th May 2020, 01:18 AM   #28
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Originally Posted by Trebuchet View Post
I actually favor the biology textbook idea. Someone pulled some sort of stock gear image to go with it.
I assume you've done a reverse image search. I tried but the auction site wasn't letting it work.

I agree or used in an illustration in a popular science magazine.
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Old 18th May 2020, 01:19 AM   #29
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Originally Posted by a_unique_person View Post
I have found out what makes these illustrations look wired. Gaouche. Why did they choose this medium when it looks flat?

Popular style at the time, art is influenced by what is fashionable at the time.
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Old 18th May 2020, 04:24 AM   #30
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Originally Posted by a_unique_person View Post
I have found out what makes these illustrations look wired. Gaouche. Why did they choose this medium when it looks flat?
Some of this I already knew, but lots of it is from internet research. Gouache is essentially just water color with a chalky substance (often actual chalk) added to give it body. Water color is watery and gouache is muddy, it gets its name from the Italian guazzo, which means mud.

That flat, matte, chalky appearance was considered an attribute for illustrations because it was easy to reproduce the picture. This was before scanners so it was often a photographic reproduction process. If you've ever tried to get a decent photo of a painting that has any bit of a shiny surface, you know how hard that can be. A gouache painting has no shine and therefore is easy to reproduce.

It's also an easy, forgiving, fast-drying medium. If you are an illustrator who is cranking these things out, that's an advantage.

I'm not reaching my original goal (yet), but I'm learning a lot.

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Old 18th May 2020, 07:50 AM   #31
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If it was the cover for a textbook on something like enzyme catalysis, given the 1950 date it's pretty unlikely you'd ever find the book except by sheer luck.

Illustration of that sort would have been about the same for a book cover, a magazine article, or a corporate report. So you could be looking for a long-obsolete textbook, or an annual report from some 1950's biotech company, or an article in a mainstream magazine or a company's house organ or promotional literature. Some of those things used surprisingly good material, and a number of substantial artists supplemented their income with this kind of work.

A lot of those illustrations probably were saved, framed, and kept or given to friends and family, and unless there's a note on the back, few people now will have any idea what they were for.
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Old 18th May 2020, 08:09 AM   #32
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Are we sure that there's a biological element to this? That "cell" in the back could be some kind of electric coil. Looks kind of like a plasma ball to me. As if the intent was to represent the interplay of mechanisms with electriciy and they just went with the most artistic look (a weird gear and a particularly active plasma ball) rather than depicting something in real life.

ETA: Maybe it was designed to analogize biological processes to engineering principles. "Mechanism and energetics" is a phrase that comes up a lot in enzyme reactions. I could see this in some college/H.S. lab as an educational poster.
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Old 18th May 2020, 08:58 AM   #33
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I did a little digging and I saw a lot of illustrations from the 60's that match the style. Especially the covers of the How and Why Wonder Books from the period. Check this one out: https://www.amazon.com/how-wonder-bo.../dp/B0007EAOF0

Definitely reminiscent, I think, as are many of the covers in that series.
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Old 18th May 2020, 09:43 AM   #34
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Originally Posted by xjx388 View Post
Are we sure that there's a biological element to this? That "cell" in the back could be some kind of electric coil. Looks kind of like a plasma ball to me. As if the intent was to represent the interplay of mechanisms with electriciy and they just went with the most artistic look (a weird gear and a particularly active plasma ball) rather than depicting something in real life.

ETA: Maybe it was designed to analogize biological processes to engineering principles. "Mechanism and energetics" is a phrase that comes up a lot in enzyme reactions. I could see this in some college/H.S. lab as an educational poster.
I agree. It looks more like a plasma ball than a cell to me.
To me, this is the visual equivalent of word salad.
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Old 18th May 2020, 10:54 AM   #35
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Originally Posted by xjx388 View Post
I did a little digging and I saw a lot of illustrations from the 60's that match the style. Especially the covers of the How and Why Wonder Books from the period. Check this one out: https://www.amazon.com/how-wonder-bo.../dp/B0007EAOF0

Definitely reminiscent, I think, as are many of the covers in that series.
Yeah, the 1960s is certainly a possibility. I think the gallery owner was just guessing at a 1950s date. I've written to a How & Why expert for help. Seems like a long shot. I think the image is too obscure for a children's book, but there might be tell-tale indicators that it is a certain artist who worked on those books.

Thanks for the lead,
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Old 18th May 2020, 10:57 AM   #36
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Originally Posted by whoanellie View Post
I agree. It looks more like a plasma ball than a cell to me.
To me, this is the visual equivalent of word salad.
It IS the visual equivalent of word salad (including the actual two words in the salad). I think if I can find the painting's original purpose, I'd be able to say, "Oh, now that makes sense."

Ward
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Old 18th May 2020, 11:02 AM   #37
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Originally Posted by bruto View Post
If it was the cover for a textbook on something like enzyme catalysis, given the 1950 date it's pretty unlikely you'd ever find the book except by sheer luck.

Illustration of that sort would have been about the same for a book cover, a magazine article, or a corporate report. So you could be looking for a long-obsolete textbook, or an annual report from some 1950's biotech company, or an article in a mainstream magazine or a company's house organ or promotional literature. Some of those things used surprisingly good material, and a number of substantial artists supplemented their income with this kind of work.

A lot of those illustrations probably were saved, framed, and kept or given to friends and family, and unless there's a note on the back, few people now will have any idea what they were for.
Hey, if it were easy, I wouldn't be asking. Yes, it will be sheer luck. That's why I'm putting it in front of as many eyes as possible. All the detective work about gears and paint media will not matter when someone says, "My dad was a college science professor and I remember this image from a pamphlet on his desk for the 'New Univac Compact Computer---Now Fits In A Smaller Room.'"

Ward
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Old 18th May 2020, 11:19 AM   #38
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Originally Posted by wardenclyffe View Post
It IS the visual equivalent of word salad (including the actual two words in the salad). I think if I can find the painting's original purpose, I'd be able to say, "Oh, now that makes sense."



Ward
My point is that the painting doesn't seem to have a purpose. It doesn't convey a coherent scientific concept. I would be shocked if was the illustration for a scientific text of any sort, especially one dealing with biological catalysis. I could be wrong. Keep looking.
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Old 18th May 2020, 11:40 AM   #39
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There is certainly the possibility that there was text superimposed in the image when it was published. There's a lot of empty space for that. That text might put the image into an understandable context.

And you could be right, that it's not for anything scientific and I'm barking up the wrong tree. Maybe it's just a weird painting. Hard to prove a negative. If it were just a weird painting, I might like it even better, but I sense that it is NOT art for art's sake.

Ward
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Old 18th May 2020, 12:25 PM   #40
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It's a neuron. Google <neuron energetics> for a bazillion hits. Add <mechanism> for a bazillion more. Those will be about how neurons work, how they input, out put, or are controlled.

So, maybe it was the cover of a text book? Or a poster for a pharmaceutical dog & pony show?

50s & 60s was a hay-day of Neuroscience applications. Here is a list of Nobel prizes by year, pick one. https://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/nobel.html
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