Mathematics Education and Early Abstract Art

Stephen Luecking
Proceedings of Bridges 2013: Mathematics, Music, Art, Architecture, Culture (2013)
Pages 35–42 Regular Papers


As a group, the artists educated near the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries possessed greater mathematical knowledge than expected of artists today, especially regarding constructive skills in Euclidean geometry. Educational theory of the time stressed such skills for students in general, who needed these to enter the workplace of the time. Mathematics teaching then emphasized the use of manipulatives, i.e., visual and interactive aids thought to better fix the student’s acquisition of mathematical skills. This visual training in mathematics significantly affected the early development of abstraction in art. This paper presents examples of this visual mathematics education and samples its effects on the development of abstract art in the first decades of the 20th century.