Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Art of Ernst Haeckel

The layout of insect collections has always interested me, or really the layout of any kind of collection in which the objects are slightly different, but still bear resemblances. The zoological drawings of Ernst Haeckel have always fascinated me in that respect... They were scientific in their intent, yet they still showed a style of drawing that ended up looking like a stylized caricature of the organism itself.

One obvious reason for the caricatured look of his specimens is simply that it was the illustrational style of the day. I talked in my post on the Grammar of Ornament about the fact that a 19th century scientific illustration looks very different from a 20th century illustration even if they are portraying the very same subject. But for 19th century zoological illustrators, one very practical reason for this is that these drawings were made before the age of easy photographic reproduction, not to mention underwater photography, so many of the organisms were probably drawn either directly from a microscope or from a dead specimen and imagined in their natural state...

Wikipedia has kindly provided beautiful large color photos from his book Kunstformen der Natur (Artforms of nature) (1904)


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