Program Details

Artist as Neuroscientist: A Visuo-Cognitive Safari Through the Provocative Art of René François Ghislain Magritte

Russell Hamer
Arts & Letters / History
Video Catch-up

Course Description

In 2014, Russell D. Hamer, PhD a visual neuroscientist who studies how the eye and brain process light information to create our rich visual world, took an audio tour of an exhibition of Rene Magritte’s art at MOMA in NYC. The tour’s descriptions were interesting, full of historical context, but missing any basic understanding of the visual perception “tricks” that Magritte so masterfully employed in his paintings. Driven by curiosity and admiration for the art, Dr. Hamer began to write about Magritte’s work. Join in the discovery as we analyze several of Magritte's iconic paintings from the unique point-of-view (POV) –the visual and brain mechanisms that are evoked by his surreal designs. Like a neuroscientist, Magritte deliberately revealed our visual brain processes in action! Most discussions of art are from an art critic's perspective, but this course will add a new dimension to your appreciation of art.


  1. Introduction to Art & Visual Neuroscience 
  2. How Do We Perceive Objects to Be Organized In 3-D From a 2-D Painting? Magritte’s “Le Blanc Seing” 
  3. Representation in Art & Brain: Magritte’s “La Condition Humaine”  
  4. Representation of Emotion and Our Inner Lives: Magritte’s “Les Jours Gigantesque”

About the Instructor

  • Russell D. Hamer, Ph.D. is a visual neuroscientist who studies how the eye and brain process light information to create our rich visual world. He did research for 22 years at the Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute (San Francisco), followed by 7 years of research and teaching at the Institute of Psychology at the University of Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo, Brazil. He is one of the world’s leading experts on visual development of human infants. His research interests and writings also include Analyses of Art & Aesthetics from the point of view of visual brain mechanisms, Perception & Illusions, the relationship between Science & Human Values, Precision of Human Musical Rhythm, and Evolution of Modern Popular Cuban Music (“Timba”).

Upcoming programs presented by Russell Hamer.

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