The 19th-century German scientist, who coined the word "ecology," is one of the heroes of Laura Bossi's exhibition "Origins of the World" at the Musée D'Orsay in Paris, awaiting its reopening since December. We look at the role his Art Forms in Nature plays in the decorative arts, from Art Nouveau to design today.
Ernst Haeckel, Kunstformen der Natur, plate 8, Leipzig, Vienna, Bibliographisches Institut, 1899-1904.
"Which style is this: enameled cooking-pot, saucepan or diving suit?" pondered the French symbolist writer Remy de Gourmont standing in the Place de la Concorde before the monumental portal of the 1900 Universal Exhibition, flanked by two "jigsaw cut phalluses". More forgiving critics evoked Byzantium, Persia and India, but far from being an Orientalist , its creator René Binet was actually inspired by the illustrations found in a scientific work for laymen, Kunstformen der Natur (Artistic Forms in Nature), published in 1904 by German zoologist Ernst Haeckel, a keen promoter of Darwin's theories in his country. "Everything is inspired by your studies, from the overall composition to the smallest detail," Binet wrote to him as the work was carried out.
Astounding Creatures in Art With his Art Forms , Haeckel wanted to show the general public the results of half a century of publications on "the infinite realm of primary life forms living in the depths of the ocean." Particularly fascinated by "the delicate, fantastical forms" of protists—unicellular plankton organisms that are both animals and plants—he also devoted numerous studies to algae, corals and jellyfish, dubbed…
This article is for subscribers only
You still have 85% left to read.