Ernst Haeckel Draws a Psychedelic World

Ernst Haeckel was a 19th century artist, philosopher and professor who had a deep interest in the natural world. His beautifully detailed illustrations of sea creatures, insects, plants and animals have survived over a century of change and are still hailed as among the best nature illustrations that exist to this day.

Photography vs Psychedelic Illustrations

The art of photography has existed for centuries, though not as we know it today. As early as the 4th and 5th centuries BC, Chinese and Greek philosophers and mathematicians described pinhole cameras. By the late 19th century, more sophisticated cameras were in use. These cameras often produced blurry images that were either over- or under-exposed, so up until the early 20th century, illustrations were the best way for scientists to share images of their findings with other biologists. These illustrations were used to identify and differentiate species of animals. Ernst Haeckel earned a name for himself for his highly detailed, intricately constructed illustrations of the natural world.

Ernst Haeckel often colored his illustrations, a technique that allowed other naturalists to imagine not just the shape and texture of the creature, but its color patterns too. During the 19th century, photographs were produced in black and white which meant that color illustrations were often valued more than photographs. [source]

This illustration, called "Orchidae", depicts several orchid flower species. Haeckel often drew collections of animals or plants of the same species, showcasing both the similarities and differences between the different breeds. [source]

Ernst Haeckel's illustrations were highly prized for their level of detail. Many nature artists of the time would simply have drawn a rough sketch of this sea creature, unlike Haeckel; who has drawn every tiny detail of the sea anemone. [source]

Natural Psychedelic Design
It's unlikely that Haeckel's intention was to create psychedelic art works. As a biologist and naturalist, Haeckel simply wanted to record the world as he saw it, as a collection of intricate patterns and subtle shades. But repetitive patterns create the basis of psychedelic art, so Haeckel's illustrations have unintentionally become mind-boggling art works.

Many of Haeckel's drawings are of sea creatures such as sea anemones. With their repetitive patterns and intricate details, these creatures are the perfect subjects for psychedelic, alienish art works. [source]

Ernst Haeckel's illustrations often have an otherworldly feel. The creature in the picture above could easily feel at home on an alien planet, yet oddly enough, it calls Earth its home. [source]

Another of Ernst Haeckel's illustrations shows several different breeds of the same jellyfish specie. In all of his art works, Haeckel included as much detail as he possibly could, making his drawings the first truly accurate visual recordings of many creatures. [source]

Ernst Haeckel died on August 9, 1919, leaving behind hundreds of nature illustrations. Nearly a century after his death, his drawings are still celebrated as being some of the most detailed and attractive biological illustrations in the world.

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