Saturday, February 27, 2010

Artistic Scientist Artist

Ernst Haeckel - Born at just the right time to be able to have the best job in the world: both artist, explorer and naturalist. Back in the grand age of (European) discovery you couldn't just pop out some fancy pants camera and get super macro shots of an ants behind: you had to have an artist to visually document all the bizarre new organisms that were discovered.

 The dashing Mr. Haeckel age 26

I am a huge fan of antique natural history prints and I have a special place in my heart for Ernst Haeckel. Since a very young age I have been fascinated by the natural world and about the things I could create with a pen in my hand. I played with the idea of becoming a marine biologist, a cartoonist, a veterinarian, a fashion designer, an finally settle on studying the Fine Arts. 

In school I was once referred to as an 'artist scientist' and wondered why it was considered odd to have interests in other fields: I mean what are you going to with your art? Eventually I dropped out of University without any idea of what to do. I went looking for a job were I could satisfy my urge to learn something new and work with nature: I got hired to work in a commercial greenhouse. That's when it all came back to me....I missed this world so much I became an absolute plant fanatic with a huge collection many of which I grew grown from seed. I tried selling some and photography fed my need for visual aesthetics.


My love of plants also got me into the world of antique natural history prints; before then I thought I was the only one who saw the beauty of fungus and jellyfish. I mean with a title like 'Art Forms in Nature' I knew I'd found the jackpot! If you want to blow your mind check out Haeckel's most famous work: Art Forms in Nature. (Note: If you want to skip the pages of (German) text just click on the links in the large rectangular box.) His work has been an inspiration for architects, designers and artists of every kind!

My favorite plate:
Plate 70. Ophiodea
Basket starfish

With the renewed interest of natural history in the arts amazing artwork has multiplied and sites such as Etsy have allowed me to discovered other artists/naturalists who have found a way to combine both disciplines:


It's even made out of recycled materials! Inspired by the amazing Veiled Stinkhorn from Haeckel's illustration. Stinkhorns are a family of fungus known for being phallus shaped and very very stinky. The stinkiness is a ploy to get carrion flies to spread their spores.
Plate 63 Basimycetes
I think I'm going to commission a T-shirt with this print that says 'The Fungus Among Us"


made using Haeckel's Moss plate
Plate 72. Muscinae

Oak cabinet with copper and glass inserts depicting Haeckels microscopic organisms.

Inspired by Haeckels protozoa illustrations

Haeckel's Plate 91. Spumellaria

HAeckel's Plate 56. Copepoda

Haeckel's Plate 38. Peromedusae

And the so popular Earnst Haeckel jellyfish...

from Plate 8. Discomedusae

From the world of Fine Arts, the mother of all odes to Haeckel's Art Forms in Nature:
From his exhibition Villa Medusa 2006 a giant silicone rubber and fiber optic chandelier by Timothy Horn

Plate 88. Discomedusae
I owe a lot to Ernst Haeckel and many fellow Etsians for making me feel a little less like a complete nerd for choosing seaweed as my 3rd grade science project.

I mean, jellyfish, rocks and minerals, and scientific diagrams no one can understand are now fashionable!
Next thing you know people will be naming their babies with Latin botanical nomenclature....Oh filipendulaaaaa!


  1. What a great post, I've love old botanicla prints fo ryears and these are Great!Love the photos that go along with them, too!

  2. Spelling was atrocious in that last post, I apologize!!

  3. Oh my - that is the best job in the world. Those illustrations are so gorgeous.

    A favorite professor of my always wanted to name a daughter "Myrica gale" after the sweet bay shrub.... :-)