Science has many faces. We encounter them in oil paintings, medals, graphic representations, photographs and sculptures. There has been a culture of portrait painting at the Georgia Augusta since her founding in 1737. The portraits of Göttingen professors from various collections of the University that are exhibited here make clear: portraits narrate the scientific world as well as the academic history.
Image and individual
Science has always been a collaborative undertaking. Nevertheless, it is more often associated with individuals. The production of portraits has contributed to this—picking out individuals from the masses—once concentrating almost exclusively on men and only over time also depicting women. These portraits show more than just the face of the person. They evoke the academic background of the individual. They indicate the academic standing of the person depicted and provide insight into the prominent scientific ideals. They represent the individual scholars as well as the institution of the University itself.
Material and medium
A portrait never exists beyond its medium. Regardless of whether it is an oil painting, graphic image, photograph, medal or a bust, the respective manufacturing technique and the material are essential for the form of the representation as well as the potential application. Portraits can be sometimes more, sometimes less portable. Some are more suitable for public exhibitions while others are private collectibles. While some can be hung or set up, others lend themselves more to being collected, sent, traded, duplicated by the thousands or kept as memorabilia in a photo album.
By representing various portrait media, this exhibition organizes the portraits of the scholars according to their retrospective time of production. This approach highlights continuity as well as disruptions in the portrait culture. It draws our attention to general patterns, types and traditions used in the portrayal of scholars. Its central themes revolve around admission and participation in an institution, showing us not only types of remembrances but also mechanisms of exclusion.