Ernst Haeckel

I’m in the process of decorating my new room. I have always been a nomad, and I understate when I admit to moving every year since the day I left home (for college) at age 17. So, decorating is really not something I’ve ever done. (Well, not since that flouncy pink canopy bed I loved so much as a pre-teen.) Typically, as I move in to a new place, I’m already thinking about where I will live next. So, I don’t bother to settle in. However, I think I might actually be settling in to my new place, and I’m starting to think about decorating. I am inspired by a friend (a fan of Albertus Seba,) who will remain nameless because he would be mortified if I posted his name in my blog. What sort of space am I inspired to create? I want a space in which Charles Darwin would feel at home – surrounded by images of the beauty and diversity of nature.

A couple of years ago, I started collecting old chromolithographs, I suppose with the idea of displaying them at some point. They are beautiful and created by a laborious process in painstaking detail, usually by artistically talented biologists. I only have a couple of them. One is from an old German book and is a bunch of crazy looking mushrooms. The other is from a 19th century elementary school astronomy textbook (I bought that one just after Pluto was demoted.) I also have a nice Audubon print. Now that I’m in decorator mode, I decided to collect more, and I (re)discovered Ernst Haeckel.

I was introduced to him in grad school, in a “Theory of Phylogenetics” seminar. He’s the “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny” guy. I saw his controversial embryo drawings. He also drew this “Tree of Life” that’s STILL what most folks who do not believe in evolution think we’re talking about. His thinking was cutting edge, but he’s best remembered for not quite getting it right and it turns out that he wasn’t entirely honest in the process. But, I digress. There are books dedicated to this topic, and I recommend reading them. What I didn’t know is that he was an artist. He published this book, Artforms of Nature (in German,) that is chock-full of some AMAZING lithographs.

I’m writing about this now because I recently bid a (relatively) large amount of money on ebay for a couple of original Haeckel lithographs. I didn’t win the auctions, and I’m glad because I just found this website that has high-resolution scans of pretty much the whole book. Sure, it’s not as good as having the originals, and I would still love to collect the originals. But, for the purposes of decorating, this resource is great! Print, frame, hang. (Good thing I have access to a large printer!)

OK, so it’s easy to appreciate the beauty of the hummingbird, but what really gets me excited is the prints of the under-appreciated forms of life. Like protists and sea slugs.

1 thought on “Ernst Haeckel

  1. well, I think they’re cool looking… the whatchacallit microscopic bugger thingies… (Hopefully you know I’m playing dumb here. I’ve actually been doing quite a bit of studying lately.)

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