Four Ways of Measuring the Distance
Between Alchemy and Contemporary Art
Abstract: Alchemy has always had its ferocious defenders,
and a small minority of artists remain interested in alchemical meanings
and substances. In this essay I will suggest two reasons why alchemy is
marginal to current visual art, and two more reasons why alchemical thinking
remains absolutely central. Briefly: alchemy is irrelevant because (1)
it is has been a minority interest from early modernism to the present,
and therefore (2) it is outside the principal conversations about modernism
and postmodernism; but alchemy is central because (3) it provides the best
language to explain the fascination of oil paint, and (4) it is one of
the best models for understanding the contemporary aversion to full logical
or rational sense.
Keywords: alchemy, aesthetics, modern art,
This essay, which I hope hovers between art history, the history of chemistry,
art criticism, and contemporary art, was born of a series of skeptical
engagements with artists who use chemical symbols in their work.
For several years I have been writing about the disconnection of science
and art. In particular I have gotten interested in
the lack of living connection between alchemical images and contemporary
art. There are the inevitable counterexamples, including
Roald Hoffmann’s collaboration with the artist Vivian Torrence, but the
exceptions prove the rule: chemistry and alchemy have little to do with
What I have in mind here is a meditation on the distance between contemporary
art practice and the history of chemistry. I do not intend to make a comprehensive
review of the literature, but to assay the major points of connection and
disconnection between the fields.
Alchemy’s Babel of symbols – its ‘seeds’, menstrua, Eves and Adams,
its greenlions – has cut it off from other disciplines, especially since
the Enlightenment. And for their part, alchemists tried to swallow neighboring
disciplines, mixing them together into a new Babel: folklore, mythology,
witchcraft, medieval mysticism, botany, anatomy, agriculture, medicine,
color theory, metallurgy, and the study of music were all incorporated,
at one time or another, into alchemical doctrines.
It stands to reason, then, that alchemy has become a field of study
for people in various modern disciplines: the history of chemistry, the
history of mysticism and religious thinking, the history of natural philosophy,
the histories of mining and technology. Scholars in those fields mine alchemy,
just as it mined them, and try to classify and elucidate alchemy’s many
misunderstandings and borrowings.
In terms of fine art, alchemy has long been a place Western artists
could go to veil their work in obscurity. From Ferrara in the fifteenth
century to the Venice biennale, artists have drawn on alchemy, and art
historians have worked hard to elucidate the artists’ intentionally hidden
meanings. So art history and even art criticism should be added to the
list of disciplines that are legitimately concerned with alchemy.
Yet always there is the question of the relation between alchemy and
the disciplines that are interested in it. In the seventeenth century the
principal questions were the relation of alchemy and the church, and the
emergence of scientific practices. The relation of alchemy and the humanities
(that is, the university) was a difficult question then, and even now it
is the object of debate. I do not know any university that would admit
a professor of alchemy. Such a person might teach Jungian theories in the
Psychology Department, or meditative theories in the Religious Studies
Department, or even the philosophy of substances in the Philosophy Department.
The ‘alchemists’ who work in universities are all, to my knowledge, either
historians of chemistry or historians of medicine or art – in other words,
they are ‘alchemists’ only in the sense that they study other peoples’
beliefs about their subject, not the subject itself. In that respect alchemy
remains outside the university, as it always was in European universities
from the Middle Ages onward.
When art historians study alchemical images, the historians themselves
become part of this unresolved history. An interest in alchemical images
is a sub-specialty within, for example, the specialty of Baroque art –
and it is a problematic specialty at that. The historians who make alchemy
their particular interest are sometimes looked on as eccentrics: their
methodology may be impeccable (I mean, good archival research, sound iconographic
analyses), but their choice of subject matter makes them suspect. In that
respect art historians who are interested in alchemy become one further
example of the oil-and-water problem of mixing alchemy with any ‘legitimate’
The same observation can be made about art critics who are drawn to
the work of artists who employ alchemical symbols. They too tend to be
marginalized in the world of art criticism. People might take such critics
to be New Age spiritualists, or else to have some private spiritual agenda
that attracts them to like-minded artists.
There are many contemporary artists who openly use alchemical symbols:
Brett Whiteley, Krzysztof Gliszczynski, Rosslynd Piggott,
Sharon Walker, Leigh Hyams, Milan Mrkusich, Therese
Oulton, Domenico Bianchi, Helmut
Dirnaichner, Tommaso Cascella,
Pat Martin Bates, Jean Aujame,
Ljuba (Popovic Alekse Ljubomir), Arturo Duclos,
Ian Howard, Richard Mueller,
Anna Hollings, Claudia Schink,
Dick Ket, Raoul Hynckes, and Pyke Koch. All of them
are minor in the sense that they appeal to a narrow specialty public.
(For an opposing view, see Sidney Perkowitz’s work; he does not concern
himself with quality, but only with the presence of scientific themes in
art.) I have gotten several dozen portfolios from
such artists, who were responding to my book: none of my colleagues had
heard of any of them.
I know this phenomenon of exclusion and suspicion firsthand. When I
was researching my book on alchemy and painting, What Painting Is,
I found only a few art historians or historians of chemistry willing to
talk about the subject. I contacted real alchemists, people who teach alchemy
outside the university system, but when I proposed symposia that would
include those people along with chemists and historians of chemistry, I
was turned down. (I proposed one such conference at Cambridge University,
to a group of scholars who were advertising their interest in unusual,
non-academic subjects: but this subject was too unusual even for them.)
Some painters, historians, and critics also kept their distance from my
project. After the book was published, I started getting letters from painters
who liked the book’s approach, and I still get six or seven invitations
each year to speak at studio art departments. The book has made a certain
number of ‘converts’ among painters – people who are very enthusiastic,
and tell me that my book is the first one they have found that gives voice
to their sense of what painting is really all about. Yet the book has also
me some friends, especially art historians who have read it and politely
declined to comment; and it also attracts letters from contemporary artists
who use explicit alchemical symbols in their work, or who follow Jung –
even though my book argues, explicitly, against those ways of employing
So what I want to do here is step back and assess the relation between
alchemy and two of the many fields it intersects: contemporary art, and
contemporary art criticism or art history. My object is to try to describe
the problematic relation between alchemy and those two disciplines (art
production and scholarship). I think the troubled relation among those
disciplines is typical of the troubled relation alchemy has long had with
science, with the humanities, with religion, and with the university.
I find there are four basic ways that alchemy can be related to contemporary
art and scholarship. Alchemy can be considered to be basically irrelevant
to contemporary art and art scholarship because (and this is my first point)
it is has been a minority interest from early modernism to the present,
and also because (this is the second point) it is outside the principal
conversations about modernism and postmodernism. On the other hand, alchemy
can be said to be central to contemporary art and scholarship on art because
(point three) it provides the best language to explain the fascination
artists can feel for oil paint, and (the last point, number four) alchemy
is one of the best models for understanding the contemporary aversion to
full logical or rational sense. I will consider the four points in order.
1. Alchemy is irrelevant because it has been a minority interest from early
modernism to the present
The histories of alchemy and art have a number of points of contact. There
have been persuasive arguments about the importance of alchemy to Joseph
Beuys, Francesco Clemente, Marcel Duchamp,
Adolph Gottlieb, Brice Marden,
Sigmar Polke, John Graham,
Yves Klein, André Masson,
Salvador Dalí, Anselm Kiefer,
Pollock, Max Ernst, Remedios
Varo, Francis Picabia, Jim
Dine, Joan Miró, and
many others. (Among pre-modern artists: Parmigianino,
Dürer, Teniers, Bosch,
Giorgione, and Breughel.) Alchemy has also been
featured in exhibitions, most prominently the 1986 Venice biennale, where
it was associated with the current revival and transformation of the Wunderkammer.
I would argue that such connections are generally superficial and tenuous.
The principal reason is that alchemy is a radically incomplete source
of explanation even for the works of the artists I have named. Joseph Beuys’
(1977), for example, is a massive cast of the unused space at one end of
a pedestrian underpass. It conforms to several important alchemical concepts:
it involves transformation, and uses its material in an essentialist manner.
Yet an account of Tallow in terms of alchemy would be inadequate
because so many other themes are more important. (For instance, Tallow
connects to Beuys’ critiques of urban space, of architecture, of use-value
and exchange-value in modern life.) Gottlieb’s
and Pollock’s Alchemy (1947) are one-off pieces, typical of an interest
in alchemy that swept the New York art scene in the mid 1940s. In neither
painting are the alchemical symbols the most important elements in the
paintings. In Gottlieb’s case, the alchemical pictographs were interchangeable
with non-alchemical ones. In Pollock’s painting the symbols are so subtle,
and so integrated into the painting, that there is no reason to suppose
Pollock even intended them as such. Even Kiefer’s enormous Nigredo,
explicitly named after a stage in the alchemical process, cannot be adequately
glossed as an alchemical image: it is ultimately about history, memory,
and national guilt. As Ann Temkin has pointed out, the black is preeminently
the morally darkened soil of Germany.
Let me suggest four conclusions: first, few modern artists out of the
total number were influenced by alchemy; second, the influence was often
not alchemy proper but the idea of it; third, not much of any given
artist’s production can be explained by appealing to alchemy (with the
exception of minor artists such as the ones I listed earlier); and fourth,
what is explained is often not the work’s most important features.
2. Alchemy is irrelevant because it is outside the principal conversations
about modernism and postmodernism
By ‘principal conversations’ I mean questions of the place of cubism and
surrealism, the importance of abstract expressionism, the value accorded
to abstraction, the end of naturalism in Cézanne and postimpressionism,
the rise of dada and conceptual art, the question of painting after minimalism
and support/surface, the various competing definitions of postmodernism.
Here the exceptions are especially interesting. I would name Forrest
Bess, the mid-century psychotic visionary artist from Texas who caught
the interest of the historian Meyer Schapiro, and Marco Breuer, a contemporary
photographer. Bess and Breuer are very different
artists, but their work is significant. As Schapiro pointed out, Bess’
paintings are among the very few authentically visionary artworks, uninfluenced
by notions of ‘outsider art’. Bess is especially important given the current
interest in naïve art and outsider art. Breuer does not speak of his
art in alchemical terms, although it could easy be argued that transformation
is its central trope. He is, I think, one of the most interesting photographers
who are currently working. He makes photographs without light, by scratching
and burning photographic paper in the dark. The heat and friction produce
chemical reactions that are then developed, producing ‘minimalist’ forms,
grids, lines, and scratches.
But there are precious few artists whose work is alchemical and also
part of the mainstream of conversations on modernism and postmodernism.
The major problems and issues of modernism and postmodernism have nothing
to do with alchemy. To make connections between contemporary art and alchemy
it is necessary to back up, and speak less in terms of symbolic content
and more in terms of abstract similarities.
3. Alchemy is central because it provides the best language to explain
the fascination of oil paint
This is the contention of my book, What Painting Is. There I argue
that alchemy is the best language for talking about substances: thickness
and weight and heft (they are all different), viscosity and stickiness
and tackiness and goo (again all different), color and tint and hue and
chroma and the ‘feel’ of color.
That is the basic reason I wrote the book. It is not Jungian, and it
does not have much to do with alchemical symbols. I was interested in relating
some of the universal problems of oil painting in the West – the managing
of light and dark, the systems of colors – to the words alchemists
invented to describe the phenomena they saw in their vessels and crucibles.
I thought that painters often love the textures and even the smells of
oil paint, but have no words to convince non-painters, including historians.
The idea was to adopt the words alchemists had invented to give voice to
the painters’ love of the paint itself. This is how I put it in the book
To a nonpainter, oil paint is uninteresting and faintly unpleasant.
To a painter, it is the life’s blood: a substance so utterly entrancing,
infuriating, and ravishingly beautiful that it makes it worthwhile to go
back into the studio every morning, year after year, for an entire lifetime.
As the decades go by, a painter’s life becomes a life lived with oil paint,
a story told in the thicknesses of oil. Any history of painting that does
not take that obsession seriously is incomplete.
Many of my colleagues in art history go on the assumption that painters
want to be out of the studio as quickly as possible, because they think
of the studio a bit like writers think of their computer keyboards. But
in my experience serious oil painters love oil: they just lack the
words to describe their attachment.
For those reasons the book What Painting Is stays away from artists
who are literal about alchemy, and use alchemical symbols and so on – all
my examples in the book are mainstream artists, from Sassetta and Tintoretto
to Rembrandt, Dubuffet, Bacon, and Pollock.
I used alchemy only because I had no alternative. Like painters, spent
their lives peering into their vessels, looking for colors, for changes
of nature, for the mixtures of the elements, for fixity and liquidity and
the propensity to stain or evaporate or sublimate: and that is exactly
what painters do.
Hypostasis and transcendence are absolutely central to what painters
think about, even though most would not put it in those terms. Some painters
would talk about their paint in terms of transcendence, illusion, or the
ability to signify beyond the paint’s raw ‘materiality’; and for all of
those things, I think alchemy’s spiritual allegories of transubstantiation
and hypostasis are ideal. One art critic called my book ‘moony’, and it
is moony (i.e., ridiculous, lunatic) if it is taken literally, as
an attempt to claim that all painting is secretly about alchemical
allegories: but it is not so moony to try to find an adequate conceptual
frame for something that painters are still very engaged with, even if
they don’t have a good vocabulary for describing it. There is a debate
in contemporary art history and criticism about ‘base materialism’, the
impossibility of transcendence, and the purposes of painting after minimalism:
but that discussion leaves the majority of working painters out
in the cold: they still believe painting’s purpose is some kind of ‘transcendence’
– some way of getting beyond the literal reference to the support and medium
themselves – but they have been left out of the current critical discussion.
I still think that book is on the right track: it is a way to revive,
or change, alchemy so that it can continue the work it did for past generations.
4. Alchemy is central because it is one of the best models for understanding
the contemporary aversion to full logical or rational sense
This is the broadest and most general connection, I think, between alchemy
and contemporary art. The strongest continuity between alchemy and 20th-century
art is best sought not by tracing direct iconographic evidence of alchemical
thinking, nor even by finding a vocabulary for paint itself, as I did,
but by looking in particular at strategies for increasing mystery
by introducing fragments of language or allusions to language
into predominantly or originally ‘purely’ pictorial settings.
I want to suggest a general term, the feeling of meaning, which
I think captures this affinity. The idea on the part of artists is, generally
speaking, to increase the quotient of irrationality until the picture only
to have meaning, or feels like it has meaning. First, however, I
want to make several specific observations about the relevance of alchemy
in this hermeneutic.
From the fourteenth to the early eighteenth centuries, alchemical illustrations
achieved a richer vocabulary, a greater expressive freedom, and a more
articulate economy of ‘verbal’ and ‘visual’ elements than other kinds of
pictures before the twentieth century. Contemporary
painters who work with improvised, private symbols can do no better than
study the alchemical illustrations, with their dense mingling of the visual
with the linguistic in all its forms: from simple typographic lexeme to
calligraphic and multiple symbol, from hieroglyph to elaborate emblem,
from device to perspectival, theriomorphic, and animate heraldry.
In this respect it is important to recall that alchemical illustrations
are in large measure feral outgrowths of domestic Renaissance emblems,
which are in turn partly misunderstandings of Egyptian hieroglyphics. Because
Renaissance artists had no clear sense that one might want to write
hieroglyphics, artists such as Albrecht Dürer, following the humanist
Willibald Pirckheimer, felt free to expand and elaborate the hieroglyphic
symbols into little pictures (which Renaissance artists continued to call
‘hieroglyphics’). A well-known example is Horapollo’s simple, codified
‘dog’ – once a hieroglyphic sign, which Dürer made into a textured
drawing with expression and contraposto. It became a little picture;
it would take five minutes or more to draw, making it entirely impractical
as a graphic element in a written script.
In that way writing, emblems, and pictures were tangled from the outset.
Yet in contrast with contemporary painting, Renaissance emblems are entirely
intelligible once one reads the accompanying motto (the inscriptio)
and verse (subscriptio). In Guillaume de La Perrière’s La
Morosophie, for example, an owl disturbs two sleepers.
The author explains the meaning: just as an owl’s hooting will frighten
sleepers, so will good people be shocked by a slanderous man’s words. The
‘visual component’ – the pictura – is crudely done, and attracts
no special attention.
Alchemical emblems tended to increase the pictorial content, and delimit
or obscure the inscriptio and subscriptio, turning them into
ciphers. Those strategies meant that viewers were sent back to the images
in their quest to understand the emblems. The result, in technical terms,
is pseudolinguistic: the emblem appears to comprise a sentence,
as it does in the traditional non-esoteric emblemata, but it cannot be
read. Postmodern figurative painting by artists as different as Eric Fischl,
Francesco Clemente, Susan Rothenberg, and Ross Bleckner, becomes pseudolinguistic
whenever a private story is presented as a picture. Viewer and maker share
the knowledge of the presence of private meanings, but unless the artist
explains the work, the viewer does not share the private meaning and the
work remains enigmatic: it is indecipherable, pseudolinguistic. The ultimate
source of such pictures is the Renaissance misunderstanding of hieroglyphs,
and the Baroque elaboration of that misunderstanding in the form of alchemical
and esoteric emblems.
Here is an example from alchemy (figure 1). Over a Lowlands canal four
fiery spheres appear, representing the four Fires of the Work.
This time the text, Maier’s Atalanta fugiens, offers four interpretations:
the four fires are Vulcan, Mercury, the Moon, and Apollo; or true fire
(ignis verò), natural fire (ignis naturis), unnatural
fire (ignis innaturalis), and antinatural fire (ignis contra
naturam); or fire, air, water, and earth; or the dragon, the menstruum,
and Sulphur & Mercury. The fires build skyward,
just as the alchemist aspires to the height of the phoenix’s pyre and its
eternal regeneration. In this way the commentary compounds the four spheres
with a fourfold interpretation, instead of explaining the single mystery
by a single meaning – a typical gesture.
Figure 1: Emblem XVII from Michael Maier, Atalanta fugiens
(Oppenheim: Hieronymus Gallerus, J. Theodorus de Bry, 1618).
Here the landscape is a larger player. It is only partly drawn into the
meanings of these apparitions: the outhouse may allude to the earthly origins
of the alchemical process (which was often connected to the four humors,
and began with black, the bilious humor, and the materia prima),
and the canal water suggests the menstruum and, as Maier says, it
indicates that alchemical fires are "waters that do not wet the hands",
as quicksilver does not. Yet these are only details in the landscape. There
is still the basic question, not meant to be asked but impossible to squelch:
Where is this? What landscape, what country? The only available answers
– that it is a dream, a fable, or a vision – are all cut off by the picture’s
commentary, which proclaims symbolic meanings. The mystery of four flaming
spheres on a canal is not resolved by a list of allegorical meanings, and
we are thrown back on the apparition. We begin again, looking into the
flames, watching the reflections, wondering if those people on the boats
see the spheres at all. An earthly flame or storm engulfs the right half
of the sky. Is it, too, a symbol? Or a conventional device added by the
engraver? Is the entirety of the plate a vision? (The darkened foreground
makes it seems as if the spheres glow, but they sit in a pool of shadows.)
What forms are ‘natural’, and what is to be included in the enuntiagraph,
the symbolic sentence that must, in the end, pronounce the meaning of the
The same, I want to suggest, happens in contemporary art, although the
language of alchemical emblems has yet to be applied to it. I choose an
example from photography, partly to show that these phenomena are nearly
ubiquitous. (The avoidance of meaning, and the inheritance of ideographic
images and emblemata, may be as close as it is possible to come to a grounding
definition of the current state of image making.) The example is Susan
Eder’s collection of photographs called Cloud Faces (Figure 2).
Eder is a versatile photographer whose work can be traced most clearly
to the institution of the Wunderkammer (roughly: the world as a
source of wonder, rather than a repository of science), which is currently
undergoing an intermittent renascence in visual art. But the deeper current
here, the one that underwrites even the inconsistent revivals of the Wunderkammer,
is the tradition of emblems without texts. Here there is no inscriptio
or subscriptio, as in La Perrière, and not even any accompanying
mystifying text, as in Maier (although gallerists supply such texts with
exhibition catalogues). The clouds are simply clouds, or simply faces:
there is no clear meaning, no moral, no purpose. There is a bit of whimsy,
in this case, and a touch of wonder and playfulness: but to what end? If
it had a clear purpose, a La Perrière-style moral, it would probably
not be counted as art. I could have chosen pictures with more formal
affinity to the seventeenth-century emblems – Clemente’s and Schnabel’s
paintings often mix odd symbols with figures – but that would be a little
misleading. It’s not the formal similarities that provide the deepest affinities,
but the suspension of clear meaning.
Figure 2: Susan Eder, Cloud Faces, 1984, detail. Photos
on 16 x 20" mountboard. Courtesy of the artist.
A strategy of current painting, as well as of the old alchemists, is to
increase the feeling of meaning, the sense that meaning is present
without the forced quality of naked written meaning. A feeling of meaning
is an intuition of meaning, the result of mingling ‘word’ and ‘image’,
emblem and picture. The result is an incomplete fusion: in viewer’s terms,
asks for incomplete reading and incomplete viewing. Recent painting
has achieved objects that are neither word nor image, and they stand directly
on the heritage of alchemy. That, I think is the deepest connection between
the history of alchemy and contemporary art, and one that is still waiting
to be explored.
Notes and References
 This essay was originally presented at a conference
on alchemy at the University of Århus, Denmark, 2001. I thank the
participants and an anonymous reader for suggestions.
 See my reviews of Martin Kemp, The Science
of Art (Yale, 1990), Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte, 54,
no. 4 (1991), 597-601; of Picturing Science, Producing Art, ed.
by Caroline Jones and Peter Galison, in Isis, 97 no. 9 (2000),
318-19; and of Eileen Reeves, Painting the Heavens: Art and Sciences
in the Age of Galileo (Princeton, 1997), in Zeitschrift für
Kunstgeschichte, 62 (1999), 580-85. A book, Six Stories from
the End of Representation: 1975-2002 (Stanford CA: Stanford University
Press, forthcoming), formally sets out the ideas in those reviews.
 The book What Painting Is (Routledge,
New York, 1998) contains the basic argument; see further the essay ‘On
the Unimportance of Alchemy in Western Painting’, Konsthistorisk tidskrift,
(1992), 21–26, which was followed by an exchange with Didier Kahn titled
‘What is Alchemical History?’, Konsthistorisk tidskrift,
no. 1 (1995), 51–53.
 Roald Hoffmann & Vivian Torrence, Chemistry
Imagined: Reflections on Science, with a forward by Carl Sagan, Smithsonian
Institution, Washington DC, 1993.
 An interesting recent example is the book
Necessity, on women’s altars. A few examples in the book have alchemical,
Rosicrucian, and Masonic symbols; the book as a whole would be regarded
more as sociology than art history. Kay Turner, Beautiful Necessity:
The Art and Meaning of Women’s Altars, Thames and Hudson, London, 1999.
 Ola Åstrand, ‘Brett Whiteley’s Alkemi’,
58, no. 2 (1997), 40-43.
 Harriet Edquist, ‘The Transformations of
Rosslynd Piggott’, Art and Australia, 32, no. 3 (1995), 380-89.
 Alan Wright, ‘The Alchemy of the Painted
Surface: The Early Work of Milan Mrkusich, 1960-65’, Art New Zealand,
(1997), 44-8, 79-80.
 David Cohen, ‘Therese Oulton’s Painting:
The Jewels of Art History’, Modern Painters, 1, no. 1 (1988),
 Elio Cappuccio, ‘Domenico Bianchi’, Tema
Celeste, 32-33 (1991) 92 [vv].
 Thomas Kliemann, ‘Helmut Dirnaichner: »Man
Muss Schon sehr Suchen«’, Batería, 15 (1994),
 Alessandro Riva, ‘Il Vietcong dell’arte
si mette a nudo: tra simboli magici e forme dell’inconscio’, Arte,
(May 1998), 71.
 A. De Chantal, ‘Pat Martin Bates: le rouge,
le blanc, et le noir’, Vie des Arts, 78 (1975), 38-39.
 Jean Rudel, ‘Le retour au ‘mythe’ dans
l’oeuvre de Jean Aujame’, Archives de l’Art Français, 25
 G. R. Hocke, ‘Der Jugoslawische Maler Ljube:
Zur Charakterisierung seiner gemalten Träume’, Kunst und das Schöne
Heim, 93 no. 6 (1981), 397-404, 437-38.
 Gerard-Georges Lemaire, ‘Conversation avec
Arturo Duclos’, Verso, 14 (April 1999), 16-17.
 Ian Howard, ‘Artist’s Eye’, Art Review,
(March 1999), 48-49.
 Christine Ross-Hopper, ‘In Conversation:
Richard Mueller’, NS [Canada], 2, no. 1 (March 1992), 20-29.
 Emily Simpson, ‘Mute Poetry: The Art of
Anna Hollings’, Art New Zealand, 90 (Autumn 1999), 58-59.
 Suzanne Wedewer, ‘Begriff und Bild: Claudia
Schink’, Neue Bildende Kunst, 6 (1999), 46-48.
 For the last three see Jerome Coignard,
‘Une vie inquietante’, Connaissance des Arts, 571 (April
 This list is culled from a work in progress,
in Twentieth-Century Painting. For further information see R.A. Coates,
The Influence of Magic on the Iconography of European Painting,
PhD diss., unpublished, New York University, 1972.
 Sidney Perkowitz, Empire of Light: A
History of Discovery in Science and Art, Joseph Henry Press, Washington
 John Moffitt, Occultism in Avant-garde
Art: The Case of Joseph Beuys, UMI Press, Ann Arbor MI, 1988.
 For alchemy in Duchamp see first Linda
Dalrymple Henderson, Duchamp in Context: Science and Technology in the
Glass and Related Works, Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ,
1998; and then (all of them less reliable sources) Joan Veronice Messenger,
Duchamp: Alchemical Symbolism in and Relationships Between the Large Glass
and the Étant Donnés, University Microfilms, Ann Arbor
MI, 1984; Arturo Schwartz, Arte e alchimia, exh. cat. of the XLII
Esposizione internazionale d’arte la Biennale di Venezia, Venice, 1986;
and Pontus Hulten, Jean Clair, et al., Marcel Duchamp, abécédaire,
approches critiques, Musée national d’art moderne, Centre national
d’art et de culture Georges Pompidou, Paris, 1977; John Golding,
Marcel Duchamp: The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even,
Viking, New York, 1973, p. 90, strikes an appropriately skeptical note
in relation to the Bride.
 Mary Davis MacNaughton, The Painting
of Adolf Gottlieb, 1923-1974, PhD diss., Columbia University, 1981
(UMI Press, Ann Arbor, 1988), p. 137.
 Brice Marden: Marbles, Paintings, and
Drawings, exh. cat., Pace Gallery, New York, 29 Oct.-27 Nov. 1982.
 Tom Holert, ‘Arsen und Spitzenhäubchen:
Vorschläge zu Sigmar Polke’, Texte zur Kunst, 7 , no.
27 (1997), 78-87; Kathleen Howe, ‘Alchemical Researches: The Photoworks
of Sigmar Polke’, On Paper, 1, no. 2 (1996), 13-15.
 See Hayden Herrera, ‘John Graham: Modernist
Turns Magus’, Art Magazine, 51, no. 2 (1976), 7-12.
 Claudia Giannetti, ‘Retrospectiva de Yves
Klein: el salto en el vacío’, Lapiz, 13, no. 108 (1995),
 Patrice Trigano, in André Masson,
ed. by Arnau Puig, Fundació Caixa de Pensions, Barcelona, 1985.
 M. Heyd, ‘Dalí’s Metamorphosis
of Narcissus Reconsidered’, Artibus et Historiae, 10
 Bea Dotti, ‘Anselm Kiefer: agli Inferni,
andata e ritorno’, Arte, 308 (1999), 66-67.
 J. Welsh, ‘Jackson Pollock’s »The
White Angel« and the Origin of Alchemy’, in The Spiritual Image
in Modern Art, ed. by Kathleen Regier, Wheaton, Illinois, 1987, p.
193; J. Wolfe, ‘Jungian Aspects of Jackson Pollock’s Imagery’, Artforum,11
(November 1972), 65-73.
 M. E. Warlick, Max Ernst and Alchemy:
A Magician In Searth of Myth, University of Texas Press, Austin TX,
2001; David Hopkins, ‘Max Ernst’s La toilette de la mariée’,
Magazine, 133, no. 1057 (April 1991), 237-44.
 Sue Taylor, ‘Into the Mystic’, Art in
America, 89, no. 4 (April 2001), 126-29; Janet Kaplan, Remedios
Varo: Unexpected Journeys, Abbeville Press, New York, 2000; Deborah
Haynes, ‘The Art of Remedios Varo: Issues of Gender Ambiguity and Religious
Meaning’, Woman’s Art Journal, 16, no. 1 (1995), 26-32.
 Arturo Schwarz, ‘Picabia…sobre alguno arquetipos
alquímicos’, Kalías, 7, no. 14, (1995), 20-31,
 Demetrio Paparoni, ‘The Memory of Death:
Jim Dine’, Tema Celeste, 6, no. 3 (1988), 28-33.
 Hubertus Gassner, Joan Miró:
Der magische Gärtner, DuMont, Köln, 1994.
 See Maurizio Fagiolo Dell’Arco, Il Parmigianino,
un saggio sull’ermetismo nel Cinquecento, M. Bulzoni, Rome, 1970),
p. 45. Comparative material is available in the fundamental study by Sydney
Freedberg, Parmigianino, His Works in Painting, Harvard University
Press, Cambridge MA, 1950.
 For a recent account see Maurizio Calvesi,
‘A Noir (Melencolia I)’, Storia dell’Arte, 1-2 (1969),
 See Laurinda Dixon, Alchemical Imagery
in Bosch’s Garden of Delights, UMI Research Press, Ann Arbor MI, 1981;
Madeleine Bergman, Hieronymus Bosch and Alchemy, (Acta Universitatis
Stockholmiensis, Stockholm Studies in History of Art, vol. 31), Almqvist
and Wiksell International, Stockholm, 1979.
 See G. F. Hartlaub, Giorgiones Geheimnis:
Ein kunstgeschichtlicher Beitrag zur Mystik der Renaissance, München,
1925. Hartlaub is critiqued in Salvatore Settis, La "Tempesta" Interpretata
(1978), translated by E. Bianchini as Giorgione’s Tempest, Interpreting
the Hidden Subject, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1990, p.
 Mino Gabriele, Alchimia: la tradizione
in occidente secondo le fonti manoscritte e a stampa, exh. cat,XLII
Esposizione internazionale d’arte la Biennale di Venezia, Electa, Venice,
 Temkin, ‘Nigredo (1984) by Anselm
Kiefer’, Philadelphia Museum of Art Bulletin, 86, no. 365-366
 Bess is discussed in my Pictures of
the Body: Pain and Metamorphosis, Stanford University Press, Stanford,
1999, and in Forrest Bess, exh. cat., ed. by John Yau, Hirschl and
Adler Modern, New York, 1988. Breuer is discussed in my ‘Renouncing Representation’
essay in Marco Breuer: Tremors, Ephemera, exh. cat., Roth Horowitz,
New York, 2000.
 I am thinking of Rosalind Krauss and Yve-Alain
Bois’s book Formless: A User’s Guide, Zone, New York, 1997.
 The problem of finding satisfactory synonyms
for ‘word’ and ‘image’ is discussed in Norman Bryson’s Word and Image,
French Painting in the Ancien Régime, Harvard University Press,
Cambridge MA, 1981. Bryson considers various alternates: the Latinate "discursive"
and "figural," "[t]he interactions of that part of our mind which thinks
with words, with our visual or ocular experience," and the near-synonyms
"optical truth," "Being," "Life," "‘being-as-image’" and "visual experience
independent of language" as against "those features which show the influence
on the image of language" (pp. 5-7). Here I have opted for ‘visual’ and
‘linguistic’, with the understanding that they are a lesser evil than the
overly restrictive and explicit ‘word’ and the optically-tinged ‘image’.
The question is pursued in, Mieke Bal, Reading "Rembrandt": Beyond the
Word-Image Opposition, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1991;
and my own Domain of Images, Cornell University Press, Ithaca NY,
 See the discussion of the emblem of Maximilian
I in Erwin Panofsky, Albrecht Dürer, Princeton University Press,
Princeton NJ, 1948.
 Guillaume de La Perrière, La
morosophie de Guillaume de la Perriere, Tolosain, contenant cent emblemes
moraux, illutrez de cent tetrastiques latins, reduitz en autant de quatrains
françoys, Par Macé Bonhomme et a Tolose par Iean Mouhier,
 Maier, Atalanta fugiens, emblem
XVII. See H.M.E. de Jong, Michael Maier’s Atalanta fugiens: Sources
of An Alchemical Book of Emblems, Brill, Leiden, 1969.
 Johannes Fabricius, Alchemy: The Medieval
Alchemists and Their Royal Art, Diamond Books, London, 1994, p. 207,
for the four fires as "1) earthly fire 2) lunar fire 3) heavenly, solar
fire 4) solar, nuclear fire." This reading is pursued in context of "word-image"
relations in my Domain of Images, p. 201.
Department of Art History, Theory, and Criticism, School of the Art
Institute, 112 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago IL 60603, U.S.A.; email@example.com
2003 by HYLE and James Elkins