Art from Engineering

Photo:ANGEL by Weeks

Although he was not an artist per se, Edison, in the course of his long career, created thousands of drawings in his laboratory notebooks. These drawings are chiefly technical, and Edison made them as a way of communicating his ideas about new inventions to his associates, for the purposes of applying for patents, and to record possible solutions to technical problems.

In the process of editing some of Edison’s drawings for publication in Volume 7 of the Thomas A. Edison Papers, Dan Weeks, an editorial assistant at the project, began to see the artistic possibilities latent in some of Edison’s drawings.

“As I began working on a page of images that Edison had created in his notebook,” says Weeks, “the partially edited page reminded me of something Picasso might have done, and when I added a few patches of color, it began to come to life as something quite different than Edison intended.”

“While it seemed Picasso-like to me,” says Weeks. “Louis Carlat, to whom this first piece was dedicated, said it reminded him of Miro.” Carlat, an associate editor at the Edison Papers, oversaw the preparation of more than 100 drawings and other illustrations for Volume 7, which is titled Losses and Loyalties.

In all, Weeks created five full-color works from Edison's drawings. "My chief interest was to create something for members of the staff as a memento of Volume 7, something that would make them laugh and give them a different perspective on Edison's drawings." For this reason, the theme of all of these works is whimsical. The staff members liked them so much, they have decided to offer them to the public serially on a limited basis.

The result of Weeks’s first effort was “Angel,” which the Edison Papers will offer in a limited, framed edition as a gift for donors to the project of $1,000 or more. Each print will be offered in a full-color 8x10-inch format suitable for display at home or in the office. For more information, please contact Rachel Weissenburger using the contact us page.

There is still more to learn from one of the most brilliant inventors and entrepreneurs of modern times, a man who shaped not only industrial America, but also mass entertainment and contemporary culture with his breakthroughs in sound recordings and motion pictures. Find out how you can help.

The Edison Papers is co-sponsored by Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, the National Park Service, the New Jersey Historical Commission, and the Smithsonian Institution.