Roger de La Fresnaye, “The Conquest of the Air” (1913)
In his influential book “The Fractal Geometry of Nature” (1982) Benoit Mandelbrot (1924 -2010) argued that “clouds are not spheres, mountains are not cones, coastlines are not circles and bark is not smooth” pointing out the fact that real objects are quite unlike pure, Euclidean geometrical objects. Geometry appears cold and dry, he notes, because of “its inability to describe the shape of a cloud, a mountain, a coastline, a tree”. In “The Conquest of the Air”, Roger de La Fresnaye presents a geometric world where Mandelbrot’s “amorphous” is absent, clouds are indeed spheres and all objects are formed by elementary, Euclidean solids. De La Fresnaye’s mathematical influence can be traced in his 1912 – 1914 participation in the “Section d’ Or” or “Puteaux group”, a collective of artists that displayed strong belief in the significance of mathematical proportions and especially the golden ratio.