The Golden Ratio is Completely Irrational (but we love it anyway)

The Golden Ratio is quite possibly the most common use of mathematics in the art world, and it’s completely irrational.

Let me explain.

The Golden Ratio is actually a number, typically written as the Greek symbol “phi” Φ. The number itself is about 1.6180339887… onward till infinity. Because of it’s non-repeating and non-terminating nature, it is considered an “irrational number”.

However, the use of the number is pretty rational, and incredibly logical, despite its frequent use in art. It dates all the way back to about 440 BCE, with the construction of the Parthenon statues, and the buildings of the Great Pyramids of Giza. These structures use the Golden Ratio, even if it wasn’t officially defined until at least a hundred years later, by the ancient Greek philosopher Euclid.

The Golden Ratio itself is used for perfect symmetry on the human body, in art, and architecture. It’s also related to the Fibonacci sequence, but you’d have to get a much more knowledgeable mathematician than myself to explain it.

It appears in a lot of famous works – Michelangelo’s David sculpture (used as an example of perfect human proportions), many of Leonardo Di Vinci’s works (including The Last Supper) and Salvador Dali’s The Sacrament of the Last Supper. (This piece of art also includes a dodecahedron – connections!) It also sometimes appears in nature, which is pretty cool.

Basically math has made its way into art and every other facet of life. So if you were going to pursue a career in the arts just to avoid math, bad move, buddy. Math is everything. 


Sources: Art class from grade eight (ask M. Mackenzie),