19th Century Biologist’s Illustrations of Microbes Bring Art and Science Together

Ernst Haeckel scientific illustration

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Ernst Haeckel was born in a time when art and science were entwined, each informing the other through exciting discoveries in the 19th and early-20th centuries. A biologist, naturalist, philosopher, and artist, Haeckel's gorgeous drawings helped introduce to the world to microscopic organisms previously unseen.

German book publisher Taschen has reprinted his incredible drawings in an a new art book, The Art and Science of Ernst Haeckel, presenting how he promoted Charles Darwin's theories of evolution at a time when the ideas were under attack. Born in Germany in 1834, Haeckel “spent his life researching flora and fauna from the highest mountaintops to the deepest ocean.”

Over his lifetime, he published numerous books filled with lush scientific drawings that merged the worlds of art and science. From fantastical renderings of microscopic creatures to a view of a jellyfish that is similar to an architectural blueprint, Haeckel's work has left a lasting legacy both in the scientific and artistic worlds. Contemporary artists like Rogan Brown continue to be influenced by his detailed renderings even today.

Taschen's collection of 450 plates pulls together Haeckel's best illustrations across his numerous publications, including the groundbreaking 1899 work, Art Forms of Nature. Here Haeckel emphasized organization and symmetry in this collection of illustrations composed for maximum visual impact. He was perhaps the first to deeply understand that nature is the ultimate artist, his drawings evidence—and inspiration—for centuries to come.

Ernst Haeckel Taschen

Ernst Haeckel Scientific Illustration

The Art and Science of Ernst Haeckel

The Art and Science of Ernst Haeckel

Ernst Haeckel illustrations

The Art and Science of Ernst Haeckel

Ernst Haeckel scientific illustration

Ernst Haeckel scientific illustration

h/t: [Co.Design]

All images via Taschen.

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Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Staff Editor and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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