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ERNST HEINRICH PHILIPP AUGUST HAECKEL (1834-1919)


HaeckelErnst Haeckel (1834-1919) was the German scientist who coined the phrase "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny" and the terms "Darwinism" and "ecology." He was first to postulate a "missing link" between ape and man and was proven correct when Java man was found in 1891. A staunch evolutionary biologist, Haeckel put Darwin on the world map. His books and monographs, placing Darwin in a broad social and philosophical context, were circulated internationally; they outsold On the Origin of Species by a large margin. Haeckel was commonly referred to as "the Darwin of Germany."

Haeckel was also an accomplished artist. His idol was Goethe, who maintained that art as well as science could unearth the underlying truths of nature. For both Goethe and Haeckel, morphology had aesthetic roots. Haeckel traveled far and wide, from Sicily to Ceylon, to the North Sea, and beyond. Sketchpads and watercolors accompanied his microscope wherever he went. His on-the-spot drawings of deep-sea vegetation, aquatic creatures, frogs, birds, and higher animals were turned into more than 1000 engravings. From this treasure trove, a selection of 100 colored lithographs were produced for publication in his 1904 Kunstformen der Natur. This work is considered one of the marvels of 19th century naturalist illustration. With their sinuous lines and tendency to idealize nature, these drawings are also considered a forerunner of the Art Nouveau movement. Indeed Haeckel's most lasting legacy may lie in the field of art. In science, where artistic license is often called fraud, Haeckel's reputation was sorely tarnished

This exhibition presents a selection of digitized reproductions of the remarkable illustrations in the two volume Art Forms in Nature. They have been culled from the holdings of the rare book collection of the MBLWHOI Library.

Special thanks to David Remsen, Paul Sweet, Jen Walton, and Kurt Fuglister.

Curated by Ann Weissmann, Exhibitions Curator MBLWHOI Library




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