Karl Menger’s modernist journey: art, mathematics and mysticism, 1920–1955

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In addition to being an accomplished mathematician and to being involved in the economic and philosophical circles of interwar Vienna, Karl Menger (1902–1985) had a lively interest in Modern Art. He appreciated the work of Hans Masereel, the Belgian graphic novelist; Peter Alma, the Dutchman associated with De Stijl; and the German Gerd Arntz, Otto Neurath’s right-hand man and the artist behind the Isotype system of pictorial education. He particularly liked the work of De Stijl’s Piet Mondrian, even making a pilgrimage to his studio in Paris in the late 1920’s. Menger perceived connections between the shift towards abstraction in such artwork and the rise of abstraction in his own field of mathematics. He favoured the clarity evident in such images, but, as he was keen to point out, not necessarily their political connotations or mystical underpinnings. This paper traces Menger’s involvement with art and aesthetics from his early days as a student in Vienna and the Netherlands to his arrival as an intellectual émigré in the American Midwest.

This content has been updated on 15 January 2020 at 11 h 45 min.