Shedding light on the microscopic organisms that inhabit the Earth, German biologist Ernst Haeckel’s extremely detailed drawings blur the lines between art and science.
“Nature generates an inexhaustible cornucopia of wonderful forms, the beauty and variety of which far exceed the crafted art forms produced by human beings.”- Ernst Haeckel
Created during the late 19th and early 20th Century, Ernst Haeckel’s successful drawings, watercolours and sketches became the foundation of his legacy. A German-born biologist, evolutionist and artist – among other things – Haeckel spent his life researching flora and fauna to explain it to the public. In doing so, he drew hundreds of sketches of his findings which were published in several volumes, including Kunstformen der Natur (Artforms in Nature).
Seen as a “visual encyclopaedia” of living things, Haeckel’s work remains remarkable for several reasons – its graphic precision and careful shading means the drawings can easily be seen as artwork, but they also give a detailed insight into the understanding of organic evolution. Paramount in Haeckel’s works is the emphasis on the essential symmetries and order of nature; even in the strangest of creatures, he managed to find a sense of biological beauty.
To celebrate the scientific and artistic importance of Haeckel’s work, Taschen have reprinted a collection of 450 of his finest prints – from several different volumes – into a new book titled The Art and Science of Ernst Haeckel. With their new breath of life, Haeckel’s drawings can once again show the intricate ways that science and art overlap.
Within The Art and Science of Ernst Haeckel, it is easy to see that Haeckel’s detailed drawings of organisms have an almost abstract form. The artworks reveal the geometric structures that are unexpectedly common in nature, with each organism looking almost architectural.
Authors of The Art and Science of Ernst Haeckel, Rainer Willmann and Julia Voss, have put together a volume that is a vivid look into the variety and intricacy of life, as well as being an artistic, visual masterwork. During a time where biodiversity is increasingly threatened, to know that these drawings are sketched from physical creatures living on Earth reminds us that the natural world is constantly surprising and beautiful – and this is a notion worth keeping in mind.
All images © TASCHEN Köln/Niedersächsische Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Göttingen