Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur

December 22 2013

The book Kunstformen der Natur (German for Art Forms of Nature) by the biologist, philosopher, physician and artist Ernst Haeckel is a masterpiece of art and science. To me his devotion gets across a strong message: Pay more attention to all forms of life, wonder world is all around you!

I think this makes a great children’s book.

The most striking element of Haeckel’s illustrations in Kunstformen der Natur is the startling arrangement of the life forms depicted — especially the microscopic subjects. it appears almost as if some unseen magnetic force had aligned them and arranged each in perfect position for viewing. This maximized the real estate on the paper and allowed the greatest number of related organisms to be studied and admired. While the result was artistic, the intention was educational and scientific. For Haeckel, illustrating and sharing his observations was a way to convey knowledge and information about the natural world. While some scientists observed and described connections between similar forms and functions to show relatedness between animals, Haeckel’s vision and documentary skills went a step further, illustrating similar creatures together, so that anyone — scientists or not — could clearly see their relatedness. As a fervent believer in Darwinian evolutionary theory, he merely pointed out to his viewers the logic of the theory by providing them with a view by which they could see the obvious connections for themselves.
Tom Baione on Haeckel’s illustrations