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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.

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