In a 1904 letter to Emile Bernard, Paul Cézanne wrote, “everything in nature is modeled according to the sphere, the cone, and the cylinder. You have to learn to paint with reference to these simple shapes; then you can do anything.”

In contrast, in the Fractal Geometry of Nature Benoit Mandelbrot takes a different point of view: “Clouds are not spheres, mountains are not cones, coastlines are not circles, and bark is not smooth, nor does lightning travel in a straight line.”

To the extent that the arts are informed by nature, we should not be surprised to find fractal aspects in the visual arts. The extent of this presence, much of it largely unconscious, may be a surprise. Fractals may have become a cliché in modern computer graphics, but they have a long and rich history in art

Although not being defined or labelled until 1976 fractals have been observed  throughout history, manifesting themselves visually throughout different cultures through artefacts and artworks resonating strongly throughout many if not all major world cultures and religions as shown here.



This an image from the Medieval Celtic Book of Kells (597 A.D)

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These are black and white Persian Rug examples


The above image is a birds-eye architectural plan of an ethiopian village. fractals

are evident throughout African art and culture, however this was my favourite.


The image on the left is a traditional Islamic artwork, whereas the image on

the left is a computer generated rendering of the Mandelbrot set.

The similarities are obvious and evident.


The above depicts and ancient Egyptian symbolism, again a fractal.



This symbol is a well known Jewish icon.


For me, most interestingly of the religious symbols is this one from


 The Italian renaissance and dutch matters even took influence from unknowingly observing fractals in nature. by using a method of iteration with the desired material the artist were able to create increasingly realistic natural forms.  For example The Dutch painter Jan Van Goyen (1596-1656) was capable of creating realism a picture with “small efforts” from stains of colors. Compare Van Goyen’s painted clouds with the typical fractal computer-generated “cloud”


Left is a section of a painting of Goyen’ Two men on a Footbridge

over a stream. To the right is a cloud generated by an iteration computer


The next number of  posts will be regarding artists that have not only worked around the concepts of fractals but also artists that have influenced me within my own work.