19th Century Microbial Illustrations Show How Science and Art Work Together
Artful microbial illustrations are no longer a thing, but during the 19th century, they certainly were. Today’s artwork revolving around the minuscule and science comes in the form of petri dish exhibitions, but that’s not here nor there. Anyway, Ernst Haeckel was a biologist, naturalist, philosopher, and artist from the 19th century who, through his incredible microbial illustrations, was able to beautifully combine art and science like never before.
In order to bring those illustrations to the general public, German book publisher Taschen has reprinted his drawings in a new art book called The Art and Science of Ernst Haeckel. What he managed to achieve, however, was to promote Charles Darwin’s ideas in a time when they were still under heavy attack. As a native German, Haeckel “spent his life researching flora and fauna from the highest mountaintops to the deepest ocean.”
Throughout his life, he published numerous books that were able to capture people’s attention and imagination through the beautiful illustrations depicted in them. His works weren’t limited to only microbial illustrations either, as he also depicted various other creatures, such as jellyfish, for instance, depicting them in a style reminiscent of a blueprint of sorts. With all of his works, Haeckel had done an amazing job in combining science and art together. Some contemporary artists, such as Rogan Brown, continue to be influenced by his works.
This particular collection of 450 plates was put together by the German publisher from many of Haeckel’s best illustrations across the many publications, including the groundbreaking 1899 work, Art Forms of Nature. His work can best be characterized by symmetry and maximum visual impact. Without a shadow of a doubt, Haeckel realized that nature was the best artist – with his works perfectly illustrating this.