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Popular Book "Art Forms In Nature" Becomes Victorian Era Entertainment
Art Nouveau in Nature
Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919) was a professor of zoology in Germany during the late 19th century and was well known as a popular speaker and scholar.
His many pursuits included a medical doctorate, studies in biology, Darwinism, and painting. He traveled the world studying nature and guiding university students.
His work is still evident in many fields and ideologies. He was the first to use in his writings scientific words common today: ecology and phylum to name two. He contributed to art history book, "Art Forms in Nature", rendered in the art nouveau style.
The Young Man Ernst Haeckel
Ernst Haeckel graduated from high school in 1852 and begins medical studies. The following summer he traveled and studied marine biology as an assistant. His main task was peering at sea creatures through a telescope.
In 1858 he passes medical exams and opens his own practice, but his heart is not in the medical field. Haeckel decides to paint watercolors and studies art in Italy starting in 1859. He is now thinking of being a landscape painter or a scientist.
He decides on zoology and takes a teaching position at University of Jena, remaining there as a professor for 47 years.
He writes his friend "life is anything but tedious owing to nature's inexhaustible richness which...produces ever new, beautiful and fascinating forms that provide new material to speculate and ponder over, to draw and describe.... in addition to the scientific element, it involves artistic matters to a large degree."
Professor for 47 Years at the University of Jena
His papers were richly illustrated with his own work. His work proved him a scientist and an artist. Haeckel arranged and enhanced his subjects with symmetry and the style of the day. His style was Art Nouveau that was becoming popular during the Romantic Movement. His "Art Forms in Nature" help cement the Art Nouveau look. Designers and architects of the day used his art in many of their own creations.
Nature as Art
The Romantic Movement ushered the acceptance of emotions as a valid experience. Today such an idea is everyday life. We experience awe and emotion through travel and new sights or fright in thrill rides.
As a young man, Haeckel approached a life's work in a romantic sense. To be truthful not every individual has that chance. He was from a family that held education in high esteem and they were willing to help their son. To study marine life as a zoologist and then put those studies to an art form was, I imagine, very exciting.
He abandoned the medical career to study microscopic creatures of the sea in 1859. In 1862 he published his Radiolarien. The monograph consists of illustrated pages of protozoa and their mineral skeletons. The plates with rich detail fit into the arts and crafts ideals of the time. He became a household name and the monolith became entertainment for Victorian parlors. Haeckel's designs embraced art nouveau.
Haeckel Publishes Art Forms in Nature
In 1899 Haeckel publishes the Art Forms in Nature. It is offered as a subscription of 10 plates for each mailing. 100 plates in all. In 1904 a complete volume is available.
The idea of subscription was in use for decades. Many novels were published as serials and magazines. John Audubon pursued this very method of art distribution with his Birds of America - 1837-1839. Haeckel's Plates 72, 74, 92 and 99 are very reminiscent of Audubon's work. Art nouveau was already a trend and Haeckel borrowed heavily from it for his Art Forms in Nature. Applying art nouveau to nature was a good fit because detail could be utilized to the fullest.
A certain level of fascination is present in each plate and detail draws observer in, much like the "find the hidden object" games in a child's magazine. Ernst Haeckel was awed by nature and made it available to the middle class for study and enjoyment.
Plate # 84 Art Forms in Nature
Current Publication of Art Forms in Nature
This book has all of the plates. There is a very good biography that is not too long to read and gives a good amount of information. Also, an essay on "...Viewing Haeckel's Pictures," and his art's relationship to art nouveau. Large format book. This is the book that introduced me to Ernst Haeckel and started further Internet discovery. It is not expensive.
All One Hundred Plates Available to Everyone
All the plates of Ernst Haeckel's Art Forms in Nature are available on Wikimedia Commons.
The site is at Haeckel on Wikimedia.
Is Ernst Haeckel New to You?
Did you know of Ernst Haeckel before this reading?
By 1900 Haeckel is a Household Name in Europe
1900 Paris Exposition Entrance gates by Rene Binet based on Haeckel's radiolarian drawings.
By 1900 the art nouveau movement was in full prominence. The Paris Exhibition of 1900 was designed entirely in the art nouveau style. For an interesting photo collection see L' Exposition Universelle de 1900 Ã Paris.
Medusa Chandelier in Monaco Museum
Design for glass chandelier Oceanographic Museum, Monaco taken from Plate 88.
The Museum was built in 1910.
Museum picture from official website Oceanographic Museum of Monaco
The 360 degree video on the museum website shows this chandelier hanging in the main central lobby.
Photos of Haeckel House in Jena
Linda6769 has allowed me to link her flickr photos of Haeckel's home in Jena. See the links below. When in flickr browse her photo's of Haeckel's home.
- Photo Haeckel's Study
This link and the following are photos by Linda6769 on flickr.
Plate #27 Comb Being Jellyfish
The World Is Still Rediscovering Ersnt Haeckel -- Art and More
- Rocky Road: Ernst Haeckel
Some pros and cons of Haeckel's personality and thought. Well written and interesting.
- Ernst Haeckel
New World Encyclopedia
- Ernst Haeckel and the Microbial Baroque
Essay on Haeckel's art, evolution and thought influences for today and the past. Modern works of art included inspired by Art Forms in Nature.
- Antique Pyrography Work
Photos of a bookcase that is in Ernst Haeckel's house in Jena, Germany.
- Ernst Haeckel: Lithographs from Kunstformen der Natur (Art Forms in Nature) 1899-1904
A 2005 art show depicting" Art Forms in Nature" as sculpture. A very good show explanation included about Haeckel. Colorful pictures included of the sculptures.
- Tribute to Haeckel
On flickr in blue
New version of the Medusa by Timothy Horn made of silicon rubber. Fantastic. See news clip and photo site at toddhosfelt's Weblog on Haeckel inspired chandelier. Scroll for his April 22, 2008 posting.
Chandelier is inspired by the medusa in plate #88 above.
Additional Ernst Haeckel Inspired Art
- Haeckel Inspired Generative Geometry
- "Seed Pod" Sculpture Blooms At Night With Solar Energy
Solar energy lights this Haeckel inspired street art.
- Deedee Morriston Sculpture
The official website of Morrison. Haeckel inspired metal and light landscape sculptures.
© 2009 Sherry Venegas