Painting - Nine-Point Circle

Description
Although 18th- and 19th-century mathematicians were much interested in analysis and algebra, they continued to explore geometrical constructions. In 1765, the eminent Swiss-born mathematician Leonhard Euler showed that nine points constructed from a triangle lie on a circle. This circle would come to be called the Feuerbach circle after Karl Wilhelm Feuerbach, a professor at the gymnasium in Erlangen, Germany. In 1822, he published a paper explaining and proving the theorem.
It seems likely that the direct inspiration for this painting was a figure in H. S. M. Coxeter’s The Real Projective Plane (1955). A diagram on p. 143 of this book shows a triangle with its respective nine points. In his copy of the book, Crockett Johnson connected the points himself, thereby completing the circle (see the annotated figure). In addition, Johnson also annotated a figure in Nathan A. Court’s College Geometry (1964 printing), p. 103. Crockett Johnson's painting does not directly imitate either drawing, but it is evident that he studied each figure in creating his own construction.
The first three points of the nine-point circle are the midpoints of the sides of triangle QRP (points L, M, and N in the annotated drawing). The second three points are the bases of the altitudes of the triangle (points A, B, C). These altitudes meet at a point (S). The midpoints of the lines joining the vertices of the triangle to the intersection of the altitudes create the last three points that indicate the nine-point circle (L’, M’, N’).
The segments of the triangle that are not part of the circle are colored in shades of blue and gray. Those segments that are part of the circle are white and various shades of pink and yellow. The painting has a background defined by two shades of gray.
This oil painting on masonite, #75 in the series, dates from 1970, is signed in the upper left corner : CJ70. It is inscribed on the back: NINE-POINT CIRCLE (/) Crockett Johnson 1970. There is a metal frame.
Location
Currently not on view
Object Name
painting
date made
1970
painter
Johnson, Crockett
Physical Description
masonite (substrate material)
metal (frame material)
Measurements
overall: 62.8 cm x 104.2 cm x 3.2 cm; 24 3/4 in x 41 in x 1 1/4 in
ID Number
1979.1093.49
catalog number
1979.1093.49
accession number
1979.1093
subject
Art
Science & Mathematics
Crockett Johnson
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Mathematics
Crockett Johnson
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Ruth Krauss in memory of Crockett Johnson
Additional Media

Visitor Comments

Add a comment about this object

Submit a comment or ask a question about this object using the form below. Submissions are moderated and may receive a curator response. Please note that we cannot evaluate or appraise your personal artifacts. For other questions or general inquiries please visit our FAQ or contact page.

Personal information will not be shared or result in unsolicited e-mail. See our privacy policy.

Image CAPTCHA
Enter the characters shown in the image.