• Holly Sumner

    Holly Sumner is a New York artist who has been captivated by the drawings of Ernst Haeckel.  She has used Hackel's images of radiolrians, siphonophores and medusae as an inspiration for her paintings.  Holly worked to couple form with functionality in her images.  The titles given to the individual paintings are often cryptic - especially those of the radiolarians.  The images can be found on her Website.  Her copyright should be respected.

    Haeckel - Art Forms in Nature

    Ernst Haeckel, one of the foremost scientists of his times, was an outstanding illustrator.  His best known work - Kunstformen der Natur (Art Forms in Nature) - published in 1904, spans the gulf between art and science.  The work was published as 10 sets of 10 lithographs.  The collection contains a varied collection of images – higher plants, animals – but the major part of the collection comprises marine organism, principally plankton and extensively microscopic.  In particular it contains a number of striking images of his favourite group – the radiolarians – as well as Haeckel’s iconic and extensively reproduced image of the jellyfish Cyanea annasethe.  The radiolarians belong to the same group as the better known amoebae.  The images from Kunstformen der Natur are extensively used as resource material in art schools – in fact Haeckel’s publication is probably better known within the arts than the scientific community.  The full collection of images from Kunstformen der Natur can be found on the Wikipedia site – these images are of very good quality.  The full text of Kunstformen der Natur is available, this also contains the scanned images, although the quality is not as good as those in the Wikipedia collection.  The images are also available in print form in a couple of publications – the best value for money is Art Forms in Nature published by Prestel (ISBN 978-3-7913-1990-2) – the images are of good quality and the accompanying text provides an informed account of Haeckel, his work and work inspired by his images.

    There are also two other publications by Haeckel that contain images that are a valuable resource and have been inspiration for artists and craft workers.  Much earlier, in 1862, Haeckel published a collection of 35 copper plate etchings of images of radiolarians in Die Radiolarien (Rhizopoda radiolarian) - Eine Monographic.  These again have been reproduced as good quality images by Prestel (ISBN 978-3-7913 3327-4), they are also available on the Web (link below).  A major British oceanographic expedition the HMS Challenger collected samples during expedition (from 1873-6) from the oceans.  Haeckel was invited to analyse the samples and prepare the report for four groups of organisms: the medusae (jellyfish), a somewhat similar group or organisms - the siphonophores, his great love – the radiolarians and a rather nondescript group – the keratosa.  All told the Report of the Scientific Results of the Voyage Of H.M.S. Challenger during the years 1873-76 runs to 32 volumes.  The full set is available in a number of libraries.  A digital version has been prepared by Dr. David C. Bossard from original documents in the library holdings of Dartmouth College, Hanover New Hampshire. June, 2004.  There is copyright held by David C. Bossard, however I am unclear of the status relating to the figures.  The images appear to be scanned and the resolution is not ideal.  The full set of volumes has been digitised and available from the Biodiversity Library on the Web.  The images are of excellent quality and free from distortions.  To say the least, the organisation of them is distinctly user unfriendly – the files containing the images are labelled as Text (!) and they are in a format (jp2) that Microsoft has difficulties opening.


    Haeckel - Die Radiolarien

    In 1862, Haeckel published a collection of 35 copper plate etchings of images of radiolarians in Die Radiolarien (Rhizopoda radiolarian) - Eine Monographic.    The variety of shape and form within this scarcely known group of protozoa is incredible – shapes resembling moon landers, samurai and spiders webs are found.  Haeckel’s draftmanship is quite stunning, not only the details and composition, but his ability to capture the complex 3-dimension form of these organisms – Plates 21 and 24 are fine examples.  The images are available on the Web, but there are gradients in the background which is a persistent problem scanning from a bound volume.  Images of excellent quality are available in the publication Art Forms from the Oceans, published by Prestel (ISBN 978-3-7913 3327-4) and is very good value for money.

    Haeckel - Challenger Medusae

    Haeckel was invited to analyse the samples and prepare the report for four groups of organisms collected during the HMS Challenger Expedition.  His report on the Medusae is in Volume 4 of the report (Report of the Scientific Results of the Voyage Of H.M.S. Challenger during the years 1873-76).  His report contains 32 images of medusae, some fully coloured some monochrome.  Copies of the Report are available in a limited number of libraries (Southampton University, Marine Biological Association and the British Library in the UK,  The Marine Biological Laboratory and Dartmouth College in the US are the ones I am aware of – if you know of others please let me know).  As the full set runs to 32 volumes and as the publication is now nearly 140 years old, its limited distribution is not surprising.  Digital images are available at two sites – the links are given below.  The images on our Web Site has been down loaded from the Biodiversity Library website and then converted from JP2 to JPEG format using Contenta Converter software.  An alternative set of images are available in JPEG format at the Bossard site, but there are gradations in the background - a persistent problem of scanning from bound works.

    Haeckel - Challenger Radiolarian

    Haeckel was invited to analyse the samples and prepare the report for four groups of organisms collected during the HMS Challenger Expedition – these organisms were his great love..  They comprise three volumes collected together into a single volume (Volume 18) of the Report of the Scientific Results of the Voyage Of H.M.S. Challenger during the years 1873-76).  The first two parts contain the taxonomic descriptions, the images 140 beautifully crafted lithographs are in the third part; apparently there are also 9 woodcuts (I’ve never been able to locate the latter, but they may be embedded in the text)  Here the Biodiversity Heritage Library excels itself, as for no apparent reason, the third part with the images has been omitted in this part of the collection of the HMS Challenger reports.  It does appear elsewhere in the collection (see below) under the singularly unhelpful description “No volume title”.  To make things worse the scanned images are of exceptionally poor quality, furthermore as far as I can determine Plate 113 is missing.  For the gallery, I have put together a composite of images from the Heritage Library and the Bossard sites.  The quality is not good and the whole set needs scanning de novo – any volunteers.


    Biodiversity Images:

    The images in the Bossard collection are well organised and easy navigate.  They are grouped under four taxonomic headings:


    Haeckel - Challenger Siphonophores

    Haeckel was invited to analyse the samples and prepare the report for four groups of organisms collected during the HMS Challenger Expedition.  His report on the Siphonophores is in Volume 28 of the report (Report of the Scientific Results of the Voyage Of H.M.S. Challenger during the years 1873-76).  This contains 50 images of siphonophores, plus apparently 9 woodcuts (I’ve never been able to locate the latter, but they may be embedded in the text).  The plates are available at two sites – the Bossard site is the most accessible; the images on our site have been downloaded from the Heritage Library site, as they are of better quality.

    The following description of the Siphonophores is downloaded from a spectacular site on these organisms created and maintained by Dr Casey Dunn of Brown University in Rhode Island

    Siphonophores belong to the Cnidaria, a group of animals that includes the corals, hydroids, and true jellyfish.  There are about 175 described species.  Some siphonophores are the longest animals in the world, and specimens as long as 40 meters have been found.  The majority of siphonophores are long and thin, consisting mostly of a clear gelatinous material.  Some deep water species have dark orange or red digestive systems that can be seen inside their transparent tissues.  Siphonophores are exceedingly fragile and break into many pieces under even the slightest forces.  Many siphonophores are bioluminescent, glowing green or blue when disturbed. All siphonophores are predators, and use their many tentacles to capture crustaceans and small fish.” 

    Probably the best know Siphonophore is the  Portuguese Man o War (Physalia physalis).  Its venomous tentacles can deliver a powerful sting. 


    Heritage Library general site:

    Heritage Library siphonophore site:

    Bossard site:

    Dr Casey Dunn’s site:

    Video of Siphonophores:

    Louise Hibbert

    Louise is a designer-maker who graduated from University of Brighton in 1994 in 3D design - specialising in Wood and Plastics. She makes both practical items (salt and pepper mills, bottle stoppers) but has focused much more on creating whimsical one-off pieces – boxes and vessels.

    In her own words: “ My ideas derive from an exploration of form, texture, colour and symmetry. Inspiration has always been dominated by a fascination with the natural world, particularly marine life, and I use wood to reproduce and emphasise certain decorative aspects that these creatures possess and combine them into single pieces. After careful planning on paper, each piece originates on the lathe and then carving, airbrushed inks, and applied resins are used to create the required effects.”

    The majority of her work is made from native kiln-dried timbers. Sycamore is her favourite as it has a pale, even grain, to act as a blank canvas for her designs. Louise has a wonderful sense of colour and the translucent quality sycamore makes the colours glow in a similar way to those of the creatures who inspires her work.

    Her present work is on display for sale at the following sites:

    Sarah Parker-Eaton

    Sarah graduated from the University of Northumbria in 3-D Design. Since graduating she has exhibited widely and her work is held in both museums and private collections in the UK and abroad.

    In her own words: The distinctive and quirky jewellery I make reflects a joy in exploring natural forms through drawing. I am particularly fascinated by the textures, shapes and patterns seen in plankton, tiny seeds and microscopic marine flora and fauna. Each piece of my jewellery has been inspired by sketches made at Kew Gardens, the Natural History Museum or walks in the countryside around my home. I work in silver and gold, hand fabricating each design using a mixture of techniques such as piercing, carving and forging. Much of my work is given a dark lustrous finish using oxidisation and small details are highlighted with a polish.

    Sarah Parker-Eaton and Louise Hibbert Collaboration

    Sarah and Louise met at the Chelsea Crafts Fair in London. Both were struck by the themes, inspiration and interpretation that their work shared. Their working processes turned out to be remarkably similar: both were inspired by the same things, drew out designs in a similar way and could therefore interpret one another’s thought and drawings very easily. Collaboration, to combine their two very different skills in equally different material, was natural and exciting project.


    A meeting between Louise and Professor David Thomas, an Oceanographer at the Marine Science Laboratories at Bangor University, led to an incredibly productive period for both artists. David introduced them to planktonic organisms and they we able to see live organisms under the microscope under David’s instruction and guidance. Sarah writes of this: “By using modern microscopy we explored the movements, interactions and myriad forms displayed by planktonic organisms. We then began to design together, sketching and discussing the various elements that appealed and carefully planned each object.” The word stunning is no exaggeration for this work.


    David Thomas recognised the value of their work and in conjunction with David Roberts - the School of Ocean Science’s talented graphic artist and photographer – put together a beautiful website of their collective work - it really is an Aladdin’s cave These images are also reproduced on our site

    Hilda Canter-Lund

    Dr Hilda Canter-Lund was a scientist at the UK’s Freshwater Biological Association, based on the shores of Lake Windermere.  As well as being a very accomplished scientist, she was an outstanding photographer – she was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society Photographic Society.  The images we have reproduced here come from her book Freshwater Algae – Their microscopic world explained written in conjunction with her husband – Dr John Lund – Fellow of the Royal Society.  The book is still in print and, considering the quality and wealth of the images, good value for money.  The images are still under copyright and this should be respected – accordingly I have watermarked the images.  If you want to use them without the watermark – I have found the publisher (Biopress Ltd, Bristol, UK) very sympathetic to reasonable requests.

    Alfred Mayer


    Alfred Goldsborough Mayer/Mayor is something of an enigma. Born Mayer, he changed his family name to Mayor during the First World


    Alister Hardy made a massive contribution to the scientific study of fisheries and their food—the plankton - for which he was knighted.  From 1925-27, he was chief biologist on the 'Discovery' Expedition to Antarctica.  An account of this “cruise” is given in his book Great Waters (1967), beautifully illustrated with his water colours.  On the return leg to South Africa, when passing through the roaring forties, Hardy wedged himself on the foredeck, with a jar of water hanging around his neck, to paint impressions of the great waves.

    Probably one of his most significant contributions, certainly to the public awareness of science of the oceans, are his two books in the Collins New Naturalist Series The Open Sea: the World of Plankton (published 1956) and the companion volume Fish and Fisheries (published 1959).  The colour plates in the first of these volumes have been, and continue to be, a fascination and inspiration to many and part reason why some of us ended up as ocean scientists.