Unintentionally epic. The inadvertent 1850s art of the London Palaeontographical Society.

Henri Milne-Edwards (1800 – 1885).
Zoologist, palaeontologist & early abstract artist.
“Tetracorallia” from Ernst Haeckel’s Kunstformen der Natur, Artforms of Nature, 1904.

A Monograph of the British Fossil Corals was compiled between 1850 & 1854 by the eminent French zoologist/palaeontologist duo, Henri Milne-Edwards (1800 – 1885) & Jules Haime (1824-1856). Unbelievably there exists such a thing as Palaeontographical art & Palaeontographical artists. The undisputed king of these artists was without any doubt whatsoever the German scientist & polymath Ernst Heinrich Philipp August Haeckel whose psychedelic & surreal Art forms of Nature of 1904 is the masterpeice of Palaeontographical art & boosted the cause of popular science. Edwards & Haime made A Monograph 50 years before Haeckel Art Forms. Haekel actually drew “Tetracorallia” (image below left) from coral samples that Milne-Edwards lent him.

So. Edwards & Haime were first. Pioneers, progressives even, in the ultra niche world of Palaeontographical art. Where Haeckels Art forms is surreal, intricate, pleasingly balanced and full of colour, A Monograph is minimalist, brutally abstract, off kilter and monolithic. It’s Joy Division compared to Hendrix.

Science falls by the wayside. The art (intentional or not) overpowers the science. That’s the trick. You’re interested now. You weren’t before. Popular science.


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