The Scholarly Legacy of

Richard E. Weisberg (1943-2011)

~ Medicine in Art in Nineteenth-Century France ~

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On this news and updates page, we share news and scholarly developments related to Richard Weisberg’s research and historical interests. (Items are ordered with newest at the top.)

Some entries are directly tied to Richard’s unpublished dissertation.  Others enrich historical understanding of the legacy of Louis Pasteur’s scientific career and his personal engagement in the fine arts, which was one focus of Richard’s work.

Scholars who have found Richard’s dissertation useful are invited to send us citations of their works for listing here.

The Summer 2015 issue of Distillations magazine, published in Philadelphia by the Chemical Heritage Foundation, includes Bert Hansen’s presentation of the unique etching of Pasteur, a treasure in the Foundation’s collections. In The Artist in the Laboratory Hansen explains how Albert Edelfelt broke the rules when he painted his friend Louis Pasteur in the scientist’s natural element. (You can view the full image and read more about this print further below on this Updates page.)    (posted 5 July 2015)

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Update on new publications (posted 9 June 2015).

In April and May, three new articles examining the place of the fine arts in Louis Pasteur's personal and professional life were published in scholarly journals.  This research for these studies originated from evidence about Pasteur that Richard Weisberg presented in his 1995 dissertation.  The articles were initiated by Bert Hansen as a collaborative project with Weisberg in 2010.  After Weisberg’s death in 2011, Hansen completed the research, and the articles were published under both names.

Friends and colleagues, here and abroad, who provided assistance and encouragement are thanked in each article, along with institutions that provided permission for images in their collections.

Full abstracts are provided below the three citations.

1.  Richard E. Weisberg and Bert Hansen, Collaboration of Art and Science in Albert Edelfelt’s Portrait of Louis Pasteur: The Making of an Enduring Medical Icon,” Bulletin of the History of Medicine 89:1 (Spring 2015), 59-91.

2.  Bert Hansen and Richard E. Weisberg, Louis Pasteur’s Three Artist Compatriots —Henner, Pointelin, and Perraud: A Story of Friendship, Science, and Art in the 1870s and 1880s,” Journal of Medical Biography 25:1 (February 2017), 18-27; published on-line before print on May 29, 2015).

3.  Bert Hansen and Richard E. Weisberg, Louis Pasteur (1822–1895), His friendships with the Artists Max Claudet (1840–1893) and Paul Dubois (1829–1905), and His Public Image in the 1870s and 1880s,” Journal of Medical Biography 25:1 (February 2017), 9-18; published on-line before print on May 29, 2015). 

Abstract 1.  Historians of medicine—and even Louis Pasteur’s biographers—have paid little attention to his close relationship with the Finnish artist Albert Edelfelt. A new look at Edelfelt’s letters to his mother, written in Swedish and never quoted at length in English, reveals important aspects of Pasteur’s working habits and personality. By understanding the active collaboration through which this very famous portrait was made, we also discover unnoticed things in the painting itself, gain a new appreciation of its original impact on the French public’s image of science, and better understand its enduring influence on the portrayal of medicine in the art and the popular culture of many countries even to the present day.

Abstract 2.  Biographers have largely ignored Louis Pasteur’s many and varied connections with art and artists. This article is the second in a series of the authors’ studies of Pasteur’s friendships with artists. This research project has uncovered data that enlarge the great medical chemist’s biography, throwing new light on a variety of topics including his work habits, his social life, his artistic sensibilities, his efforts to lobby on behalf of his artist friends, his relationships to their patrons and to his own patrons, and his use of works of art to foster his reputation as a leader in French medical science. In a prior article, the authors examined his unique working relationship with the Finnish painter Albert Edelfelt and the creation of the famous portrait of Pasteur in his laboratory in the mid-1880s. The present study documents his especially warm friendship with three French artists who came from Pasteur’s home region, the Jura, or from neighboring Alsace. A forthcoming study gives an account of his friendships with Max Claudet and Paul Dubois, both of whom made important images of Pasteur, and it offers further illustrations of his devotion to the fine arts.

Abstract 3.  Biographers have largely ignored Louis Pasteur’s many and varied connections with art and artists. This article is the third in a series of the authors’ studies of Pasteur’s friendships with artists. This research project has uncovered data that enlarge the great medical chemist’s biography, throwing new light on a variety of topics including his work habits, his social life, his artistic sensibilities, his efforts to lobby on behalf of his artist friends, his relationships to their patrons and to his own patrons, and his use of works of art to foster his reputation as a leader in French medical science. In their first article, the authors examined his unique working relationship with the Finnish painter Albert Edelfelt and the creation of the famous portrait of Pasteur in his laboratory in the mid-1880s. A second study documented his especially warm friendship with three French artists who came from Pasteur’s home region, the Jura, or from neighbouring Alsace. The present study explores Pasteur’s friendships with Max Claudet and Paul Dubois, both of whom created important representations of Pasteur. These friendships and others with patrons reveal an active pursuit of patronage and reputation building from 1876 into the late 1880s. Yet, although Pasteur actively used public art to raise his status, it becomes clear in these stories that for Pasteur beauty was an ideal and art a pleasure for its own sake.

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An illustrated booklet with a condensed version of Bert Hansen’s lecture about the place of the fine arts in Pasteur’s career is available in PDF format courtesy of the Historical Collections of the University of Alabama at Birmingham as “Louis Pasteur and the Pleasures of Art.”

The unusual cover illustration for this booklet is taken from a painted page in a handwritten version of Pasteur’s Studies on Wine in the Reynolds-Finley Library. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A unique print of Edelfelt painting “Pasteur in his laboratory” (posted 8 Aug 2014)

We are privileged to share a very interesting etching of Pasteur from the collection of the Chemical Heritage Foundation (CHF) in Philadelphia.  Only recently was this rare print identified as an artist’s proof, signed by the engraver, and inscribed to a friend. A special thanks is extended to Amanda Shields, Curator of Fine Art and Registrar at CHF, for making this notice possible.

The image.  Louis Pasteur posed for this unusual milieu portrait by the Finnish artist Albert Edelfelt (1854-1905) in late spring 1885.  The painting was finished by June and first exhibited in the Paris Salon that opened on May 1, 1886.  It was received with great acclaim.  The large canvas was purchased by the French government and is now on exhibit in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.  A full-sized replica painted by Edelfelt himself is at the Institut Pasteur in Paris.

The engraver.  In that era, most people viewed paintings primarily in the form of smaller etchings, engravings, lithographs, and photographs.  These prints traveled easily and gave access to canvases that were not currently on display or were held in another city.  Prints of the latest Salon successes were big business in the late 19th century.  Léopold Flameng (1831-1911) was a leading engraver, creating both his own designs and versions of large paintings like this one.  When the artist learned that Flameng had been hired by a dealer to make a print of his painting, he was very pleased.  In an excited letter to his mother on June 3, 1886, the artist proclaimed Flameng “France’s best engraver.”

This print and its inscription.  By their nature, etched or engraved plates produce multiple copies of the inked image, with tens or hundreds of prints from the same plate.  Sometimes the artist adds a reversed signature to the plate, and it then appears in all prints.  Other times, the artist will place a pencil or ink signature on one or more paper prints.  The CHF exemplar is unique in several ways.  It was a trial run or “proof” print made by the artist or under his supervision before the final edition.  Clearly the artist was very satisfied with the test since he saved the proof and inscribed it with these phrases Épreuve d’État and À mon cher Raymond-Signouret.  Léopold Flameng.  7 mai 93. That is, “Artist’s proof – To my dear [friend] Raymond-Signouret. Léopold Flameng, May 7, 1893.” (CHF, Gift of Fisher Scientific International, Fisher Collection, FA 2000.001.226.  Image 21.25 x 17.5 in.)

The recipient.  Paul Raymond-Signouret (1831-18??) is little known except through a number of books he wrote.  He published several French translations of plays, including Shakespeare’s Macbeth.  He wrote or edited catalogues of Paris art exhibits in 1878 and 1896.  The provenance of this print has not been determined for the time before Chester G. Fisher added it to his large collection of chemical and alchemical images in the early 20th century.

Resources:

Website of the Orsay Museum:  http://www.musee-orsay.fr/en/home.html

Website of the Chemical Heritage Foundation:  http://www.chemheritage.org/discover/collections/index.aspx

“Collaboration of Art and Science in Albert Edelfelt’s Portrait of Louis Pasteur:  The Making of an Enduring Medical Icon” by Richard E. Weisberg and Bert Hansen, forthcoming in the Bulletin of the History of Medicine 89: 1 (Spring 2015).

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The Jonas Salk Centenary (posted 24 April 2014)

The legacy of Louis Pasteur’s medical achievements endures to the present in many ways, but the most striking example of a life-saving vaccine developed in the laboratory is the polio vaccine that burst upon the world in 1955.  Now in 2014 and 2015 we are celebrating the hundredth anniversary of the birth of Jonas Salk (1914-1995), the man who achieved the massively successful polio vaccine.  Many celebrations honoring his achievements are being held in commemoration of the Jonas Salk Centenary, just as numerous exhibits and festivities were staged in Europe and the United States for Pasteur’s hundredth birthday in 1922.  The Jonas Salk Legacy Foundation is spearheading plans. Information about the various events will be posted on the foundation's website at jslf.org .

 

An article by Caitlin Hawke recalls the terror of polio and the quest for a vaccine. The author recounts Jonas Salk’s signal scientific success, his subsequent glory and his quest to build the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, in concert with the renowned architect Louis I. Kahn. This piece concludes with news of current global eradication efforts.

To open a pdf file of the article "Jonas Salk, Officier: Recalling a Medical Hero," click here.  This article was published in the March 2014 newsletter of the American Society of the French Legion of Honor and is reprinted with the kind permission of the ASFLH.

An interview of Jonas Salk’s son, Peter, a physician and scientist himself, covers myriad aspects of the life and work of Jonas Salk. The rich and engaging interview was done by virologist Vincent Racaniello for the website "This Week in Virology" (TWiV April 20, 2014) in this anniversary year.  Visit TWiV 281, "The Salk Legacy with Peter L. Salk," to view the interview on video.   

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Continuing the legacy of Richard Weisberg's dissertation research

(posted 15 April 2014)

Some of Richard Weisberg’s insights are the starting point for Bert Hansen's scholarly studies of the place of the fine arts in Pasteur’s career and personal life.  An initial sketch of preliminary results was given as the John P. McGovern Award Lectureship of the American Osler Society on April 8, 2013, and published by the Society as an illustrated booklet.  For a complete pdf of the illustrated lecture, Louis Pasteur: Exploring His Life in Art, available on the AOS website, click here.

 

 

 

Feedback from users will help us maintain and improve these web pages.  If you find this site of interest, please send comments and corrections to Bert.Hansen@baruch.cuny.edu .


All material on these web pages is copyright © 2012-2014 by Bert Hansen.
All linked documents are copyright © 1995 and 2012 by the Estate of Richard E. Weisberg.

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