"Art Forms In Nature" Becomes Victorian Era Entertainment

Updated on July 22, 2018
paperfacets profile image

Ms. Venegas is exploring art and the enjoyment it can offer in retirement. Ersnt Haeckel sparked several years of reading and discovery.

Art Nouveau in Nature

Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919) was a professor of zoology in Germany during the late 19th century and was well known as a popular speaker and scholar.

His many pursuits included a medical doctorate, studies in biology, Darwinism, and painting. He traveled the world studying nature and guiding university students during ocean exhibitions..

His work is still evident in many fields and ideologies. He was the first to use in his writings scientific words common today: ecology and phylum to name two. He published a nature book, Art Forms in Nature, drawn in the art nouveau style in the late 19th century.

Ocean Creatures
Ocean Creatures

The Young Man

Ernst Haeckel graduated from high school in 1852 and begins medical studies. The following summer he traveled and studied marine biology as an assistant. His main task was peering at sea creatures through a telescope.

In 1858 he passes medical exams and opens his own practice, but his heart is not in the medical field. Haeckel decides to paint watercolors and studies drawing in Italy starting in 1859. He is now thinking of being a landscape painter or a scientist. He decides on zoology and takes a teaching position at University of Jena, remaining there as a professor for 47 years.

He writes his friend "life is anything but tedious owing to nature's inexhaustible richness which...produces ever new, beautiful and fascinating forms that provide new material to speculate and ponder over, to draw and describe.... in addition to the scientific element, it involves artistic matters to a large degree."

Professor for 47 Years at the University of Jena

Haeckel's academic papers are richly illustrated with his own drawings. His illustrated monographs proved him a scientist and an artist. He enhanced his subjects with symmetry in the trend of the day, Art Nouveau: a style that was becoming popular during the Romantic Movement. Art Forms in Nature cements the Art Nouveau look of the era. Designers and architects of the day used his biological drawings in many of their own creations.

Nature as Art

The Romantic Movement ushered the acceptance of emotions as a valid experience. Nature blossomed into the forefront of enjoyment and entertainment as curiosities. Today such an idea is everyday life. We experience awe and emotion through travel, new sights and personal discoveries.

As a young man, Haeckel approached a life's work in a romantic sense. He abandoned a medical doctorate to be a zoologist relying heavily on illustration and teaching. Not every individual has that chance. He was from a family that held education in high esteem and they were willing to help their son. To study marine life as a zoologist and then put those studies to an illustrated form was, I imagine, very exciting.

He started studying microscopic creatures of the sea in 1859. In 1862 he published his Radiolarien, pursuing exactly what he wanted to do as a career. The monograph consists of illustrated pages of protozoa and their mineral skeletons. The plates with rich detail fit into the arts and crafts ideals of the time. He became a household name and the monolith became entertainment for European middle class parlors. Haeckel's designs embraced art nouveau, the curvy, flowing style which exploded during the Victorian era by such artists as, Beardsley and Mucha.


100 Richly Illustrated Plates

In 1899 Haeckel publishes the Art Forms in Nature. It is offered as a subscription of 10 plates for each mailing. 100 plates in all. In 1904 a complete volume is available.

The idea of subscription was in use for decades. Many novels were published as serial subscriptions in magazines. John Audubon pursued this very method of sales distribution with his Birds of America - 1837-1839. Haeckel's Plates 72, 74, 92 and 99 are very reminiscent of Audubon's work. Art nouveau was already a trend and Haeckel borrowed heavily from it for his Art Forms in Nature. Applying the style to nature drawings was a good fit because detail could be utilized to the fullest.

A certain level of fascination is present in each plate and detail draws the observer in, much like the "find the hidden object" games in a child's magazine. Ernst Haeckel was awed by nature and made it available to the middle class for study and enjoyment.

Plate #27
Plate #27

All One Hundred Plates Available to Everyone

All the plates Art Forms in Nature are available on Wikimedia Commons.

The site is at Haeckel on Wikimedia.

Current Publication of The Victorian Subscription

Art Forms in Nature: The Prints of Ernst Haeckel
Art Forms in Nature: The Prints of Ernst Haeckel
This book has all of the plates. There is a very good biography that is not too long to read and gives a good amount of information. Also, an essay on "...Viewing Haeckel's Pictures," and his art's relationship to art nouveau. Large format book. This is the book that introduced me to Ernst Haeckel and started further Internet discovery. It is not expensive. For the past tens years Prestel publishing was the initial printers offering Haeckel, but in 2018, Taschen has published a premier volumn for collectors and print enthusiasts. For more affordable choices Dover markets books and CD's.

Is Ernst Haeckel New to You?

Did you know of Ernst Haeckel before this reading?

See results

By 1900 The Professor Is a Household Name in Europe

1900 Paris Exposition Entrance gates by Rene Binet based on Haeckel's radiolarian drawings.

By 1900 the art nouveau movement was in full prominence. The Paris Exhibition of 1900 was designed entirely in the nouveau style. For an interesting photo collection see L' Exposition Universelle de 1900 Ã Paris.

Paris Exposition
Paris Exposition

Medusa Chandelier in Monaco Museum

Design for glass chandelier Oceanographic Museum, Monaco taken from Plate 88.

The Museum was built in 1910.

Chandelier designed from Plate 88
Chandelier designed from Plate 88 | Source
Monaco Oceanographic Museum
Monaco Oceanographic Museum | Source

© 2018 Sherry Venegas


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • paperfacets profile imageAUTHOR

      Sherry Venegas 

      23 months ago from La Verne, CA

      Linda, a musuem in Jena has maintained his home in mostly its original form. There are many woodworkings using sea creature motifs.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      23 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I think that Ernst Haeckel's work is interesting. Thank you for sharing some examples of his creations as well as the information. I love the chandelier. I didn't realize that it existed.

    • paperfacets profile imageAUTHOR

      Sherry Venegas 

      23 months ago from La Verne, CA

      A portion of the world population doesn't favor his work, because he very much admired and promoted Darwin's theories when his famous book was published. He was Darwin's German champion and lectured extensively about the origin of the species.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      23 months ago from Ontario, Canada

      Interesting. I was really impressed with Gaudi's works in Barcelona as he incorporated so much of Nature into it. Thank you for introducing me to Haeckel. I find his works engaging and will continue to explore art forms in nature.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, owlcation.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)