Ernst Haeckel's illustrations
November 8, 2007 11:21 AM   Subscribe

Microorganisms as eye candy: A gallery of illustrations from the marvelous Artforms in Nature, Kunstformen der Natur 1899-1904 by Ernst Haeckel, an eminent, prolific and very controversial German biologist, naturalist, philosopher, physician, professor and artist, who named thousands of new species, mapped a genealogical tree relating all life forms and coined many terms in biology, including phylum, phylogeny and ecology.

More wonderful images, including hummingbirds, antelopes, shells and sea creatures. The Marine Biological Laboratory: Ernst Haeckel.

Evolution's controversial artist by Amanda Schaffer, an excellent slide-show essay.

Wikipedia's entry on Ernst Haeckel: The Nazi party used not only Haeckel's quotations, but also Haeckel's broader philosophy of "Monism," which they used as justification for racism, nationalism and social Darwinism. On this page with a substantial collection of illustrations, scroll down to figure J, where he placed Americans.

Haeckel promoted Charles Darwin's work in Germany and developed the controversial "recapitulation theory" claiming that an individual organism's biological development, or ontogeny, parallels and summarizes its species' entire evolutionary development, or phylogeny: "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny"

A little about how his naturalist vision impacted art and design around the turn of the century, such as in Art Nouveau.

strange foe's excellent previously
posted by nickyskye (19 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
i have this book...its easy to just get totally lost in...
posted by sexyrobot at 11:36 AM on November 8, 2007

This is a phenomenal post.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:38 AM on November 8, 2007

Very nice post, nickyskye. I've always really loved Haeckel's illustrations.

As an aside, I used to work as a managing editor for a pathology journal (veterinary), and always thought that some of the slides I used to see were simply beautiful, as long as you didn't think about them.
posted by sleepy pete at 11:54 AM on November 8, 2007

Amazing, thank you.
posted by kisch mokusch at 12:24 PM on November 8, 2007

Lovely. For some strange reason, I'm compelled to have these tattooed on my body now.
posted by booknerd at 12:29 PM on November 8, 2007

Wow - eye candy indeed nickyskye. Reminds me of the first time I looked through a microscope. Great post.
posted by vronsky at 1:24 PM on November 8, 2007

I've always thought Haeckel would have been a great interpreter of some of the entities in the Cthulhu Mythos.

What's cool is on scrolling that gallery page, some of the illustrations appear to pulsate!
posted by palimpsest at 1:29 PM on November 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

So cool. The drawings look like they could be typographical ornaments in ornate books.
posted by tepidmonkey at 1:45 PM on November 8, 2007

If you could figure a way to make them 3-d or cast them in silver, they would make nice Christmas tree ornaments too.
posted by vronsky at 3:09 PM on November 8, 2007

You're right vronsky! Fun thought. Would be a wonderful holiday collection at ThinkGeek or at the Museum of Natural History. Surprised nobody has turned the illustrations into all kinds of fun stuff...those silly strings of lights, earrings, necklaces, mobiles, silk screened t shirts, box of cards...One can still buy original Haeckel prints between $80 and $200 online, which seems amazing. I was surprised I didn't know about these images before a week or so ago. It was neat to see the chandeliers and things inspired by his work in that second to last link.
posted by nickyskye at 3:33 PM on November 8, 2007

palimpsest -

Some of them look straight out of Cthulhu.

This looks like an Old One, for instance.
posted by MythMaker at 4:07 PM on November 8, 2007

they would make nice Christmas tree ornaments too.

Some of them look straight out of Cthulhu.

Cthulumas Is Cthoming!
posted by homunculus at 5:02 PM on November 8, 2007

Great post, Nicky. Thanks!
posted by homunculus at 5:08 PM on November 8, 2007

French architect and Art Nouveau designer René Binet [scroll down for examples] was a contemporary of Haeckel's, and greatly admired his AFIN illustrations. Binet used the tiny Cyrtoidea radiolaria in AFIN's Plate 31 as the design concept for his grand entrance into the Paris 1900 World Exposition.

The Exposition was a celebration of 19th Century industrialization and manufacturing, and the exhibits were arranged around Gustave Eiffel's iron Tower. The entrance's three-cornered dome, over 35 meters tall, was framed by twin minarets and topped off with a woman's statue (the "Parisienne") welcoming visitors into the City of Light.

Note the entrance's similarities to Haeckel's Cyrtoidea illustration, particularly the two outermost drawings. Dubbed the "Porte Monumentale" (aka "Porte Binet"), walking through the entrance into hall after hall of the world's latest achievements would have been a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

[This comment is a self-link.]
posted by cenoxo at 6:31 PM on November 8, 2007 [3 favorites]

huh, I was totally out of the whole Cthulhu loop. Had no idea what that meant. This thread has been an education. These are Der Mini Cthulhus.

Fabulous comment cenoxo! wow. Awesome linkage. Merci buttercups. (loved looking at and learning from your blog too:)
posted by nickyskye at 7:53 PM on November 8, 2007

Oh my god. Not only is this a fabulous post, but now I must spend hours/days/months/(years?) exploring cenoxo's blog.

Thank you both!
posted by trip and a half at 8:08 PM on November 8, 2007

Haeckel's one of my fave artists ever, period. Btw, this is the third time Kunstformen der Natur has been posted here. The more the merrier, I say. :)
posted by mediareport at 8:16 PM on November 8, 2007

oh wow media report, that's a vintage one. You were waaay ahead of everybody. So sorry not to have included a link to your excellent post and glad it's included now. :)
posted by nickyskye at 9:32 PM on November 8, 2007

I caught part of a documentary at Bioneers a couple of years ago that dealt with material directly or indirectly related to the images linked above. It was a wonderful documentary but I do not know the title. Anyone? I'm pretty sure it was the same guy.
posted by christopherious at 10:06 PM on November 12, 2007

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