Art and Nature

Art, Science, and Inquiry

Information for Educators

Explore art that has been specifically created to deepen understandings of the human body, the natural world, and the visible universe. Explore artworks in the fields of medicine, natural history, and astronomy from The Huntington’s History of Science collection.

The objects in this unit span from the early 17th century to the mid-20th century and reflect The Huntington’s focus on collecting European and American art. For a broader overview of the history of science, teachers can view educational videos on the Crash Course YouTube channel History of Science.

Science: The systematic study of the physical and natural world through observation and experimentation.

Technology: 1) The practical application of scientific knowledge to make objects. 2) The objects made by applying scientific knowledge.

Definitions adapted from the Oxford English Dictionary

Essential Questions

How have people in the past used art to convey their understanding of the human body, the natural world, and the universe?

How can analyzing historical artworks help us understand the scientific knowledge of the past?

How can we use art to express our scientific understandings?

Key Understandings

Science and technology are affected by the culture in which they are created, and new discoveries can affect cultural understandings.

Observation and imagination are essential to scientific exploration and the expression of scientific ideas.

Science is an inquiry process, and it is always changing with new discoveries, new technologies, and new procedures.

Supported Standards

Common Core ELA

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.7 Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.1 Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.1 Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

National Core Arts Standards

  • NCAS Anchor Standard 1 Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work.
  • NCAS Anchor Standard 2 Organize and develop artistic ideas and work.
  • NCAS Anchor Standard 3 Refine and complete artistic work.
  • NCAS Anchor Standard 7 Perceive and analyze artistic work.
  • NCAS Anchor Standard 8 Interpret intent and meaning in artistic work.
  • NCAS Anchor Standard 10 Synthesize and relate knowledge and personal experiences to make art.
  • NCAS Anchor Standard 11 Relate artistic ideas and works with societal, cultural, and historical contexts to deepen understanding.

Next Generation Science Standards

Engineering and Scientific Practices

  • Developing and Using Models

  • Analyzing and Interpreting Data

  • Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking

  • Engaging in Argument from Evidence

  • Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information

Crosscutting Concepts

  • Patterns. Observed patterns of forms and events guide organization and classification, and they prompt questions about relationships and the factors that influence them.

  • Cause and effect: Mechanisms and explanation. Events have causes, sometimes simple, sometimes multifaceted. A major activity of science is investigating and explaining causal relationships and the mechanisms by which they are mediated. Such mechanisms can then be tested across given contexts and used to predict and explain events in new contexts.

  • Scale, proportion, and quantity. In considering phenomena, it is critical to recognize what is relevant at different measures of size, time, and energy and to recognize how changes in scale, proportion, or quantity affect a system’s structure or performance.

  • Systems and system models. Defining the system under study—specifying its boundaries and making explicit a model of that system—provides tools for understanding and testing ideas that are applicable throughout science and engineering.

  • Structure and function. The way in which an object or living thing is shaped and its substructure determines many of its properties and functions.

  • Stability and change. For natural and built systems alike, conditions of stability and determinants of rates of change or evolution of a system are critical elements of study.

Nature of Science

  • Science and tech affect/are affected by environment and society (Appendix J).

  • Science is a culturally mediated way of knowing (A Framework for K-12 Science Education).

  • Science is a human endeavor (Appendix H).

  • Scientific knowledge is based on empirical evidence (Appendix H).