What's on the walls--400 lab / DSCN0030a

7/4/2003

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 Varian Impressionist painting

DSCN0030a

This poster was distributed at several meetings, including the 1995 ENC in Boston, marking the 50th anniversary of NMR.
The first two (and later Nobel Prize-winning) papers on NMR were published in 1946, one from Harvard (Bloch) and one from
Stanford (Purcell).  This is a somewhat curious picture, an Impressionist rendering of what is clearly the Varian applications
laboratory in Palo Alto.  The people in the lab are also semi-recognizable.  I suppose that the subjects of the original Impressionist
paintings were equally recognizable to the artists' friends, and they weren't bothered by it, but somehow this treatment of the
lab doesn't really work for me.  
In the 1960's, when Varian was flying very high, the Varian brothers hired Ansel Adams to take pictures of corporate events.
This is in some ways an even stranger idea, the photographer known for taking pictures of remote and unchanging natural
scenes, sometimes waiting days for the light to be exactly right, snapping photos of people at cocktail parties.  I have to think
Ansel Adams charged high fees to do that kind of work.  The business side of NMR is quite different now, and as far as I
know, nobody commisions well-known artists these days.