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The 8th print, Discomedusae. The center and bottom-center images are Desmonema annasethe; the tentacles reminded Haeckel of his late wife's long flowing hair.[citation needed]

Kunstformen der Natur (German for Art Forms of Nature) is a book of lithographic and autotype prints by German biologist Ernst Haeckel. Originally published in sets of ten between 1899 and 1904 and collectively in two volumes in 1904,[1] it consists of 100 prints of various organisms, many of which were first described by Haeckel himself. Over the course of his career, over 1000 engravings were produced based on Haeckel's sketches and watercolors; many of the best of these were chosen for Kunstformen der Natur, translated from sketch to print by lithographer Adolf Giltsch.[2]

According to Haeckel scholar Olaf Breidbach (the editor of modern editions of Kunstformen), the work was "not just a book of illustrations but also the summation of his view of the world." The over-riding themes of the Kunstformen plates are symmetry and organization. The subjects were selected to embody organization, from the scale patterns of boxfishes to the spirals of ammonites to the perfect symmetries of jellies and microorganisms, while images composing each plate are arranged for maximum visual impact.[3]

Among the notable prints are numerous radiolarians, which Haeckel helped to popularize among amateur microscopists; at least one example is found in almost every set of 10. Cnidaria also feature prominently throughout the book, including sea anemones as well as Siphonophorae, Semaeostomeae, and other medusae. The first set included Desmonema annasethe (now Cyanea annasethe), a particularly stunning jellyfish that Haeckel observed and described shortly after the death of his wife Anna Sethe[citation needed].

Kunstformen der Natur was influential in early 20th-century art, architecture, and design, bridging the gap between science and art. In particular, many artists associated with Art Nouveau were influenced by Haeckel's images, including René Binet, Karl Blossfeldt, Hans Christiansen, and Émile Gallé. One prominent example is the Amsterdam Commodities Exchange designed by Hendrik Petrus Berlage, which was in part inspired by Kunstformen illustrations.[4]

A second edition of Kunstformen, containing only 30 of the prints, was produced in 1924.

Gallery of prints[edit]

Haeckel's original classifications appear in italics.


  1. ^ Juliana D. Kreinik; New York University. Institute of Fine Arts (2008). The Canvas and the Camera in Weimar Germany: A New Objectivity in Painting and Photography of the 1920s. ProQuest. p. 232. ISBN 978-0-549-58248-9. 
  2. ^ Breidbach, Visions of Nature, p. 253
  3. ^ Breidbach, Visions of Nature, pp. 229-231
  4. ^ Breidbach, Visions of Nature, pp. 231, 268-269
  • Breidbach, Olaf. Visions of Nature: The Art and Science of Ernst Haeckel. Prestel Verlag: Munich, 2006.

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kunstformen_der_Natur — Please support Wikipedia.
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3 news items

Boing Boing
Tue, 19 Aug 2014 05:56:15 -0700

The 19th century German biologist's seminal illustrations of weird sea-life have been adapted for a gorgeous Betabrand cabana shirt. I presupported this one in its crowdfunding stage (Betabrand lets its fans suggest designs for clothes, which it then ...

The Guardian

The Guardian
Tue, 12 Aug 2014 06:14:24 -0700

Email. Sixteen botanical studies, figures of orchids presented as a single floral display. Plate 74 from the book Kunstformen der natur by Ernst Haeckel (Leipzig, Wien, Bibliographische Institut, 1899-1904). Original: lithograph (1899) by Adolf Giltsch ...
Pressetext.com (Pressemitteilung)
Wed, 20 Aug 2014 01:01:18 -0700

Er stellt die Meeresorganismen in einzigartigen Zeichnungen dar und veröffentlicht sie zwischen 1899 und 1904 im mehrbändigen Buch "Kunstformen der Natur". Auch die aufkommende Fotografie ermöglicht eine Sicht auf Einzelheiten der Natur, die mit ...

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