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D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson (1860-1948) was a pioneering Scottish biologist whose work had a profound impact on 20th century art.


He was an extraordinary polymath who combined interests in biology and mathematics with classical art and literature. His ground-breaking book On Growth and Form was published in 1917 while he was a Professor at University College, Dundee (now the University of Dundee). It has since been described as “the greatest work of prose in twentieth century science”. On Growth and Form laid the foundations for the study of mathematical biology, but also provided inspiration for generations of artists. As the critic Herbert Read told Thompson, “you have built the bridge between science and art”.

34 artworks
Professor D'Arcy Thompson's Theories
© Tracy Tinker. Photo credit: Aberystwyth University School of Art Museum and Galleries

Professor D'Arcy Thompson's Theories c.1965

David Tinker (1924–2000)

Acrylic on canvas

H 199 x W 260 cm

Aberystwyth University School of Art Museum and Galleries

Professor Sir D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson (1860–1948)
© University of Dundee Fine Art Collections. Photo credit: University of Dundee Fine Art Collections

Professor Sir D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson (1860–1948) 1950

David Shanks Ewart (1901–1965)

Oil on canvas

H 126 x W 86 cm

University of Dundee Fine Art Collections

D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson as a Child
Photo credit: University of St Andrews

D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson as a Child 1864–1865

George Clark Stanton (1832–1894)

Oil on panel

H 23.5 x W 19.5 cm

University of St Andrews

United Leaves
© the artist. Photo credit: University of Dundee Fine Art Collections

United Leaves 2013

Marion Smith (b.1969)

Etching on paper

H 30 x W 20 cm

University of Dundee Fine Art Collections

Reclining Figure 1938

Henry Moore (1898–1986)

Bronze

H 10.5 x W 22 x D 12.5 cm

Leicester Museums and Galleries

Sculptural Objects
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2021 / www.henry-moore.org. Photo credit: University of Dundee Fine Art Collections

Sculptural Objects 1949

Henry Moore (1898–1986)

Lithograph on paper

H 49 x W 76 cm

University of Dundee Fine Art Collections

Herbert Read
© the estate of Patrick Heron. All rights reserved, DACS 2021. Photo credit: National Portrait Gallery, London

Herbert Read 1950

Patrick Heron (1920–1999)

Oil on canvas

H 76.2 x W 63.5 cm

National Portrait Gallery, London

Oval Sculpture
© Bowness. Photo credit: The Pier Arts Centre

Oval Sculpture 1943

Barbara Hepworth (1903–1975)

Plane wood with painted white concavities

H 34.9 x W 46.2 x D 29.9 cm

The Pier Arts Centre

Linear Construction in Space No. 1
© the artist's estate / Tate Images. Photo credit: Kettle's Yard, University of Cambridge

Linear Construction in Space No. 1 1944–1945

Naum Gabo (1890–1977)

Acrylic plastic & nylon thread

H 30.4 x W 30.4 x D 6.2 cm

Kettle's Yard, University of Cambridge

Landscape Composition (Objects in Relation)
Photo credit: Pallant House Gallery, Chichester

Landscape Composition (Objects in Relation) 1934

Paul Nash (1889–1946)

Tempera on hardboard

H 13 x W 15.5 cm

Pallant House Gallery

L & CH
Photo credit: Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales

L & CH 1936–1939

László Moholy-Nagy (1895–1946)

Oil on canvas

H 96.5 x W 76.1 cm

Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales

Glacier Vortex
© by courtesy of the Barns-Graham Charitable Trust. Photo credit: Southampton City Art Gallery

Glacier Vortex 1951

Wilhelmina Barns-Graham (1912–2004)

Oil on canvas

H 60 x W 71.5 cm

Southampton City Art Gallery

Ode to the North Wind
© the artist's estate. Photo credit: Dundee Art Galleries and Museums Collection (Dundee City Council)

Ode to the North Wind 1928/1930

William Johnstone (1897–1981)

Oil on canvas

H 71.1 x W 91.4 cm

Dundee Art Galleries and Museums Collection (Dundee City Council)

Chromatic spiral
© estate of Richard Hamilton. All rights reserved, DACS 2021. Photo credit: Tate

Chromatic spiral 1950

Richard Hamilton (1922–2011)

Oil on wood

H 54.3 x W 48.5 cm

Tate

Collage
© the Henderson estate. Photo credit: Tate

Collage 1949

Nigel Henderson (1917–1985)

Oil and photograph on board

H 33.7 x W 38.1 cm

Tate

Contemplative Object (Sculpture and Relief)
© trustees of the Paolozzi Foundation, licensed by DACS 2021. Photo credit: Pallant House Gallery, Chichester

Contemplative Object (Sculpture and Relief) c.1951

Eduardo Luigi Paolozzi (1924–2005)

Plaster

H 24 x W 47 x D 20 cm

Pallant House Gallery

Heavy Insect
© the estate of William Turnbull. All rights reserved, DACS 2021. Photo credit: The Ingram Collection of Modern British and Contemporary Art

Heavy Insect 1949

William Turnbull (1922–2012)

Bronze

H 52 x W 84.5 x D 22.2 cm

The Ingram Collection of Modern British and Contemporary Art

Spiral Motif (Subjective Landscape) in Black and White
© estate of Victor Pasmore. All rights reserved, DACS 2021. Photo credit: National Galleries of Scotland

Spiral Motif (Subjective Landscape) in Black and White 1951

Victor Pasmore (1908–1998)

Oil on wood

H 80.6 x W 22 cm

National Galleries of Scotland

Curved Form, Black and White
© estate of Adrian Heath. All rights reserved, DACS 2021. Photo credit: Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre

Curved Form, Black and White 1954

Adrian Heath (1920–1992)

Oil on canvas

H 75.5 x W 63.5 cm

Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre

Oiseau (Bird)
© Salvador Dali, Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí, DACS 2021. Photo credit: National Galleries of Scotland

Oiseau (Bird) 1928

Salvador Dalí (1904–1989)

Oil, sand, pebbles & shingle on board

H 49.7 x W 61 cm

National Galleries of Scotland

Number 23
© The Pollock-Krasner Foundation ARS, NY and DACS, London 2021. Photo credit: Tate

Number 23 1948

Jackson Pollock (1912–1956)

Enamel on gesso on paper

H 57.5 x W 78.4 cm

Tate

Bull III (Taureau III)
© FLC/ ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2021. Photo credit: Tate

Bull III (Taureau III) 1953

Le Corbusier (1887–1965)

Oil on canvas

H 161.9 x W 113.7 cm

Tate

Taking a Wall for a Walk
© Andy Goldsworthy, courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co. Photo credit: The Forestry Commission

Taking a Wall for a Walk 1990

Andy Goldsworthy (b.1956)

Stone

H 140 x W 8000 x D 66 cm

The Forestry Commission

In the Beginning
© the artist. Photo credit: David Oudney / Art UK

In the Beginning 2009

Peter Randall-Page (b.1954)

Limestone

H 92 x W 100 x D 101 cm

University of Dundee Fine Art Collections

Portrait of a Polymath – D'Arcy Thompson's Daybook
© the artist. Photo credit: University of Dundee Fine Art Collections

Portrait of a Polymath – D'Arcy Thompson's Daybook 2008

Will Maclean (b.1941)

Acrylic & mixed media on board

H 60 x W 124 cm

University of Dundee Fine Art Collections

Coded Chimera – Morphs of Cat and Crocodile
© the artist. Photo credit: University of Dundee Fine Art Collections

Coded Chimera – Morphs of Cat and Crocodile 2010

Bruce Gernand (b.1949)

Plastic

H 4 x W 60 x D 4 cm

University of Dundee Fine Art Collections

Aggregation 24
© the artist. Photo credit: University of Dundee Fine Art Collections

Aggregation 24 2005

Andy Lomas (b.1967)

Digital print on paper

H 60 x W 60 cm

University of Dundee Fine Art Collections

Cluster
© the artist. Photo credit: University of Dundee Fine Art Collections

Cluster 1998–1999

Mark Wright (b.1962)

Oil on canvas

H 214 x W 214 cm

University of Dundee Fine Art Collections

Snail
© Alex Flett. All rights reserved, DACS 2021. Photo credit: University of Dundee Fine Art Collections

Snail 2012

Alex Flett (b.1950)

Wood

H 34 x W 34 x D 89 cm

University of Dundee Fine Art Collections

Objects for a Memory System for D'Arcy Thompson
© the artist. Photo credit: University of Dundee Fine Art Collections

Objects for a Memory System for D'Arcy Thompson 2012

Lindsay Sekulowicz (b.1984)

Plaster, ceramic, pewter & found objects

H 100 x W 100 x D 30 cm

University of Dundee Fine Art Collections

Five Fold Symmetry
© the artist. Photo credit: University of Dundee Fine Art Collections

Five Fold Symmetry 2013

Gemma Anderson (b.1981)

Etching on paper

H 41 x W 34 cm

University of Dundee Fine Art Collections

Trifolium Repens L – Top View – No. 10
© the artist. Photo credit: University of Dundee Fine Art Collections

Trifolium Repens L – Top View – No. 10 2016

Macoto Murayama (b.1984)

Digital c-print on paper

H 100 x W 100 cm

University of Dundee Fine Art Collections

Scarus, Pomacanthus (Portrait of D'Arcy Thompson)
© the artist. Photo credit: University of Dundee Fine Art Collections

Scarus, Pomacanthus (Portrait of D'Arcy Thompson) 2012

Darren McFarlane (b.1992)

Oil on canvas

H 91 x W 61 cm

University of Dundee Fine Art Collections

D'Arcy Thompson Zoology Museum
© the artist. Photo credit: University of Dundee Fine Art Collections

D'Arcy Thompson Zoology Museum 2017–2018

Ray Byrne (b.1961)

Bronze

H 50 x W 30 x D 3 cm

University of Dundee Fine Art Collections