“Sketches of Science” – or the Nobel Prize in sketches

Klaus Tschira Stiftung

The Klaus Tschira Foundation is supporting a project in which Nobel Prize winners put their prize-worthy ideas on paper with wax crayon.

The idea is so crazy that it’s actually really good. Take a place where many Nobel laureates gather, a camera, a somewhat secluded room, large sheets of white paper, wax crayons and a task: make a sketch that best represents your discovery or invention! And then photograph them in as spontaneous a pose as possible with the artwork.

The result is a unique art project and the book “Sketches of Science, 120 Nobel Ideas, Photo Sessions with Nobel Laureates”. It was photographed by science communicator Volker Steger and written by Adam Smith, Scientific Director of the Nobel Foundation’s International Outreach Programme. In it, he describes the diverse discoveries of the honourees and thus makes visible in words who researched what, where and how, and what is so special about it.

The exhibition is a joint project between the Nobel Prize Museum in Stockholm and the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings. The project was supported by funding from the Klaus Tschira Foundation. This also made possible a whole series of exhibitions of the paintings, which were shown in the USA, Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Stockholm, of course, as well as in Germany.

The first edition of the art book was published in 2012 as part of an exhibition at the Nobel Prize Museum in Stockholm with about 40 photos from the series. About ten years later and after many more stops in numerous countries, a new and expanded edition of “Sketches of Science” was published, portraying 120 Nobel Laureates on 536 pages.

Volker Steger had the idea for the “Sketches of Sciences” during a bicycle tour from Munich to Milan. “While my legs were busy, I could let my thoughts run free,” he says. He wanted to portray the honourees in a personal way, spontaneously, without any fuss. The result is a series of pictures that are as diverse as the award winners. What they have in common, however, according to the photographer, is that they capture the beauty of intellectual achievement and intellectual work.

As a rule, the whole thing does not take more than half an hour – and this despite the fact that Volker Steger confronts the portrayed persons with the project without prior notice and thus demands a lot of spontaneity from them. So far, the photographer has only had two refusals; most of them take part and even enjoy the idea in the end. Even if one or the other is tempted to do something unusual. There have already been poems, presentations of works in yoga poses or even ideas put down on paper for which the honouree should have received the Nobel Prize in Steger’s opinion.

The project is continuing, by the way, and Volker Steger will set up his little studio again at the next Lindau Nobel Laureate Conference in June. Just don’t tell the laureates!

The Klaus Tschira Foundation (KTS) promotes natural sciences, mathematics and computer science and wants to contribute to the appreciation of these subjects. It was founded in 1995 by the physicist and SAP co-founder Klaus Tschira (1940-2015) with private funds. Its three funding priorities are: Education, research and science communication. The nationwide commitment begins in kindergarten and continues in schools, universities and research institutions. The foundation is committed to the dialogue between science and society.

Further information at: www.klaus-tschira-stiftung.de