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Art Forms Of Nature: The Work Of Ernst Haeckel

Updated on May 11, 2012
Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919).
Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919). | Source

During my internet travels I stumbled upon a enigmatic book of biological prints called Kunstformen der Natur which, when translated from German into English means Art Forms of Nature. This book was created from sketches by the German biologist Ernst Haeckel. He contributed much to our understanding of biology, although some of his ideas were incorrect and he was a somewhat controversial scientist. He published the completed Kunstformen der Natur in 1904. What impressed me most about this work is the detail and use of color, the illustrations almost appear luminescent. The prints are a wonderful blend of science and art that focus on showcasing organisational elements (such as patterns and symmetry) within the natural world. Sadly with the invention of the modern camera (which I love in its own right), intricate biological illustrations such as these are becoming a dying art-form. Apparently many artists of the Art Nouveau movement including René Binet, Karl Blossfeldt, Hans Christiansen and Émile Gallé were influenced by these prints.


Contribution To Biology & Other Fields

Before showing you some of my favorite images from Kunstformen der Natur, I thought it would be fitting to list some of Ernst Haeckel's contributions to biology and other fields. He had a mass of published papers and was responsible for:

  • Describing and naming thousands of new species.
  • Creating a phylogentic tree, linking all life forms on Earth.
  • Creating many new biological terms including anthropogeny, ecology, phylum, phylogeny, stem cell, and the kingdom Protista.
  • He was also the first person to refer to The Great War as World War 1.



Selected Images From Kunstformen der Natur

Here is a selection from the 100 prints that can be found within Kunstformen der Natur. If this sparks your interest and you want to see more, the whole book is in the public domain and can be viewed online here, however all the writing is in German. Most of the more alien looking images are illustrations of various sea creatures, which you probably won't recognize unless you're a marine biologist. It is well worth a browse if you have some time to spare.

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