JF Ptak Science Books Post 2212 History of Anticipation series
It makes me wonder about how things were labeled "art" in the history of labeling things. In a way it is not at all like naming where the American "West" is, or where the "South" begins, because those definitions seem to get very local and very detailed very quickly, and then the labels get bigger and wider and more open to interpretation. That is to say that the labels make more accommodation for the idea, at least far more so than the labeling of "art" was concerned in the pre-Kandinsky/Cubist/Abstract era, or at the very least before the era of early impressionism.
This is a tiny detail from a full-plate plate from Nature, in an article by Warren de la Rue on electrical discharge (and printed 24 June 1880). (Actually, the big full-page images like this are fairly rare in Nature--more so when the image is mostly very dark, meaning they took a lot of ink to print.) It is a beautiful thing, and was probably always considered beautiful in a scientific sense, though I think it would have been very highly unlikely for it to have been appreciated in an extra-scientific artistic sense by significant portion of the viewing population, let alone be called "art". Even if someone approached it as Impressionistic, it still did not resemble anything recognizable, and those days for non-representational art was still more than 30 years away.
Calling things "art" was far more regulated at this in the art history than what it would become in the decade of so after the popularization of discussion on the fourth dimension and the discovery of the X-rays and Thomson's atom and then, just a little while later, the first appearance of the theory of relativity. The protocols were far more strict prior to the invention of Impressionism (I have no idea how J.M.W. Turner survived in his Outsider-y genre for all of those decades before progressive Impressionism) than those that existed in 1880, or at least for those that existed that could consider these electrical discharge images as "art".
Of course Roualt and van Gogh and Rosseau and Braque and the rests had their own difficult experiences with acceptance, and some were even rejected by the groups that they helped to establish (like Duchamp with his readymades getting the heave-ho in NYC).
In general though there were very few people who had one foot in the Beaux Ecole school who could have another foot in the expansive world who could have considered scientific images like these as "art".
The full image:
See also this post on Emily Van der Poel's beautiful pre-abstract/cubist found art :