His artworks showed the wonders of evolution to a wide audience.
"Nature generates from her womb an inexhaustible plethora of wonderful forms," wrote the German biologist and artist Ernst Haeckel, "the beauty and variety of which far exceed the crafted art forms produced by human beings." Haeckel, born in 1834, was deeply influenced by the work of naturalist/explorer Alexander von Humboldt, who argued that nature should be studied using both scientific and aesthetic judgment. Later, after reading Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species, Haeckel endeavored to show the wonders of evolution to a wide audience. His paintings of swirling jellyfish, geometric radiolaria, sensual orchids, and animated hummingbirds, collected in his 1904 masterpiece Kunstformen der Natur (Art Forms in Nature), revealed the interconnectedness of art and the natural world. Many artists used these motifs as the foundation of the Art Nouveau style.
A new book, The Art and Science of Ernst Haeckel (Taschen), assembles 450 stunning examples from Haeckel's many published works, including the plates in this gallery. As editors Rainer Willmann and Julia Voss write in its introduction, "Haeckel’s illustrated publications repeatedly called forth one reaction above all others: incredulous astonishment at the beauty of objects to be found in nature."