By Nina J P Evans

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Art Forms in Nature

Here are just a few visual pieces from this accomplished scientific artist and illustrator Ernst Heinrich Haeckel, 1834-1919 (he was also known as a German physician, biologist and nature philosopher), his work bridges the gap between the scientific study of nature with art. His wonderful illustrations particularly reminds me of Jules Verne’s book published 1870. Jules Verne was likely inspired by these for this novel: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, with Captain Nemo in his electrical powered submarine the Nautilus, Captain Nemo and his divers had collected different zoological species from around the world; particularly from the bottom of the sea bed. This work shows that same sense of obsessive fascination and discovery, and is fanatical in every detail, symmetry and design. The illustrations below are from his most noted book titled: Art Forms in Nature or Kunstformen der Natur published 1869, a production of 100 published illustrations. 

Other illustrated editions include: Radiolaria (1862) Siphonophora (1869) Monera (1870) Calcareous Sponges (1872) As well as several Challenger reports: Deep-Sea Medusae (1881) Siphonophora (1888) Deep-Sea Keratosa (1889) Radiolaria (1887)—illustrated with 140 plates and enumerating over four thousand (4000) new species. [37]

In addition to the above illustrated books he also published extensive writings. I can’t help thinking that like Walt Disney who didn’t give credit to illustrators and animators for their involvement with his early films.  Haeckel in the later position of being a professor at the University of Jena, working there for 47 years from 1862 to 1909. As the dates coincide with the books publications, my guess is that under his direction he utilised his students in order to create these awe-inspiring visual compendiums. However, that doesn’t subtract from the genius of the man orchestrating these most visionary books! It is well known that many great artists have had assistants from students.

This in-depth visual zoological study of animals and sea creatures is intriguing and surprising. His work also supported Charles Darwin’s 1859 book On the Origin of Species. Wiki quotes: “From 1866 to 1867, Haeckel made an extended journey to the Canary Islands with Hermann Fol and during this period, met with Charles Darwin, in 1866 at Down House in Kent, Thomas Huxley and Charles Lyell.” and furthermore “One of Haeckel's books did a great deal to explain his version of "Darwinism" to the world.” These were the times of Journey and discovery… I can only marvel at the volume and complexity of the illustrations published! Thankfully, they were not exclusive to scientific research and readership with special thanks to Jules Verne and others equally fascinated. Haeckel’s book Art Forms in Nature along with the wondrous photographs by Karl Blossfeldt; were a seminal influence to the designs and architecture of the Art Nouveau 1890-1910; inspired by curved lines, flowers and plants and natural forms.

1 comment:

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