Art Forms in Nature: The Prints of Ernst Haeckel

The geometric shapes and natural forms, captured with exceptional precision in Ernst Haeckel’s prints, still influence artists and designers to this day. This volume highlights the research and findings of this natural scientist. Powerful modern microscopes have confirmed the accuracy of Haeckel’s prints, which even in their day, became world famous. Haeckel’s portfolio, first published between 1899 and 1904 in separate installments, is described in the opening essays. The plates illustrate Haeckel’s fundamental monistic notion of the “unity of all living things” and the wide variety of forms are executed with utmost delicacy. Incipient microscopic organisms are juxtaposed with highly developed plants and animals. The pages, ordered according to geometric and “constructive” aspects, document the oness of the world in its most diversified forms. This collection of plates was not only well-received by scientists, but by artists and architects as well. Rene Binet, a pioneer of glass and iron constructions, Emile Galle, a renowned Art Nouveau designer, and the photographer Karl Blossfeld all make explicit reference to Haeckel in their work.Every biology student knows Ernst Haeckel as the originator of the “Biogenetic Law”: ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny. Haeckel was a passionate student of the evolutionary shaping of biological forms, and Art Forms in Nature captures both his artistic sensibility and the scientific rigor he applied to all his studies. First published in 1904, Art Forms in Nature is a glorification of function and form, a demonstration of organic symmetry that has nothing–and everything–to do with nature as it actually exists. Each plate exhibits organisms carefully arranged and exquisitely detailed, “a symbiosis between decorative sketches and descriptive observations of nature,” as Olaf Breidbach states in his fascinating introductory text. The radiolarians, medusae, rotifers, bryozoans, and even frogs and turtles lovingly recreated here are gorgeous and self-explanatory, rendered in delicate, filigreed lines, and colored gently with muted green, delicate pink, and sepia. Art students will appreciate the designs found in nature–scientists will love the evolutionary statement of form inherent in the beauty. –Therese Littleton

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3 thoughts on “Art Forms in Nature: The Prints of Ernst Haeckel”

  1. The dimensions are correct Video shows the size of the book, flipping through a lot of the plates and rambling.

  2. A most excellent book The illustrations are awesome, there’s a universe of beautiful complex lifeforms that are too small for us to see. The illustrations are all in color, unlike other versions of Ernst Haeckel’s prints, and it also has lots of text in the front about Ernst Haeckel’s work, an autobiographic timeline in the back etc… Unbelievable art

  3. Beautiful book! Highly recommended. This is such a lovely book, I just HAD to let all you readers know. I didn’t know anything about Haeckel (never even heard of the man…..), when I ordered this book. I just loved his drawing of the Medusa on the cover, and couldn’t resist buying it, and boy, am I glad that I did….. There is such a quiet beauty in these plates.The book is also published by Dover (see my review there), without any accompanying text (apart from a short publishers’s note), and with all the plates printed in black and white.In this book, many of the plates are printed ‘in color’ (either different hues of one color, or a color scheme based on two colors). The book also has a highly informative article on Haeckel and his times, and on those that were influenced by him.I find it very hard to explain what exactly makes these plates so wonderfully beautiful. It is partly the symmetry of their composition, and the way in which they render the beauty of nature. The article in the book itself describes it very well:”What is it that Haeckel depicts here that is so beautiful? It is the beauty of ornament. The forms illustrated in these pages seem to fit seamlessly into the repertoire of Art Nouveau forms. [……..] Haeckel’s approach did not determine Art Nouveau, instead Art Nouveau’s approach determined Haeckel’s. What ensued was a symbiosis between decorative sketches and descriptive observations of nature […].”If you are looking for a book on Haeckel and his plates, get this one!

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