How Albert Einstein and Pablo Picasso brought relativity, cubism to the world

A parallel biography of Einstein and Picasso might at first sound like a particularly intrepid effort. Did the two men ever meet? No. And what’s more, «neither Einstein nor Picasso knew each other’s work.» So how can anyone connect the two men and their work? «I’ve always been impressed by the fact that these two men, who shaped the 20th century, made their greatest discoveries around the same time,» said Arthur I. Miller to Kathimerini. A professor of the history and philosophy of science at University College London, Miller is author of the book «Einstein and Picasso: Two Worlds as One,» which has just been published in Greek by Travlos Publications, with a translation by Spyros Pierris. This parallel biography, which was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize last year, centers on the giant contributions that the theory of relativity and cubism had on the beginnings of modernism. Rupture Arthur Miller, who has probed deeply into Einstein’s world view through a plethora of articles and books, attempts this time to formulate a holistic and complex perspective on the rupture which took place at the beginning of the 20th century. «I was always fixated by the severe geometry of cubism,» said the professor. «Could it have possibly had a scientific basis which nobody has been able to suspect? I decided that the best way in which one could explore such questions was through the method of a parallel biography.» Both Einstein and Picasso were at the center of a wave of changes which transformed the way in which Europeans interpreted the world. «One of the core changes was the new conception of time and space. Einstein and Picasso both reached adulthood at exactly the right moment, when most people were realizing that the interpretations of time and space which held up until then were not sufficient. Both were preoccupied by the same problem, which was no less than the nature of synchrony. For Einstein it was the synchrony of time, for Picasso the synchrony of space,» argued Miller. The great discoveries in art and science were made using a new language of aesthetics. «For Picasso it was the surrender of form to geometry. For Einstein it was the aesthetic of minimalism. Why, for example, should there be two different interpretations of electromagnetic inductance, with us interpreting the same process from two different perspectives, when one of them will do? From these general thoughts emerged the theory of relativity.» Picasso, through cubism and the introduction of geometry into art, struck a blow at centuries-old concepts. «The representation of many different perspectives on a single canvas was a major issue for Picasso,» said Miller. «In this way he showed that there is no one, single perspective of truth, as there was in pre-cubist art. On the other hand, Einstein demonstrated that there is no true time. Time is a relative value which depends upon the relative movements of the observer.» Professor Miller points to Henri Poincare, the great 19th-century theoretical scientist, as lying behind Einstein and Picasso. «Before Einstein, the work of the great French polymath Henri Poincare had a central role, and I discovered that he was also an influence on Picasso. «For Picasso the whole atmosphere of Paris was a catalyst, operating like a greenhouse of new ideas,» explained Miller. «Even though Einstein was in a town which intellectually at least, was provincial (as Bern was at the time), he created a special team around him which from many aspects was similar to the climate in which Picasso worked.»