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Endless Forms: Charles Darwin, Natural Science, and the Visual Arts

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Overview

Charles Darwin’s revolutionary theories of evolution and natural selection have not only had a profound influence on the fields of biology and natural history, but also provided fertile territory for the creative imagination. This lavishly illustrated book accompanies an exhibition organized by the Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge, in association with the Yale Center for British Art, that will coincide with the global celebration of the bicentenary of Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection (1859).

The essays in this exceptionally wide-ranging book examine both the profound impact that Darwin’s ideas had on European and American artists and the ways in which his theories were influenced by the visual traditions he inherited. In works by artists as diverse as Church, Landseer, Liljefors, Heade, Redon, Cézanne, Lear, Tissot, Rossetti, and Monet, from imaginative projections of prehistory to troubled evocations of a life dominated by the struggle for existence, Darwin’s sense of the interplay of all living things and his response to the beauties of the natural world proved inspirational.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Times

"A major achievement. . . . An extravagant celebration of sense and sensation."—Edward Rothstein, New York Times

— Edward Rothstein

The Times
“As this ambitious and generously illustrated study shows, Darwin’s theories unleashed a spate of artistic activity in depicting humankind and the glories of the human world. A veritable ethnographic museum in a book.” — The Times
Science

"Lavishly produced. . . . Much more than a catalogue. It offers thoughtful explorations of many of the ideas provocatively raised by the displays themselves."—Harriet Ritvo, Science

— Harriet Ritvo

Art Bulletin

"[Not] the first to consider the reception of Darwin within the visual arts, but . . . offers a more sustained and wide-ranging exploration of the topic than has emerged in scholarship to date. . . . Every essay in Endless Forms is captivating and contains significant historical and conceptual insights, The richness and breadth of the [volume is] impressive. . . . Yield[s] a fascinating and rigorously documented portrait of the art and visual culture of Darwin''s era and beyond. . . . A major accomplishment, among others, of Endless Forms is its illumination of the intellectual interest and significance of animal painting."—Rachael Z. Delue, Art Bulletin

— Rachael Z. Delue

New York Times - Edward Rothstein
"A major achievement. . . . An extravagant celebration of sense and sensation."—Edward Rothstein, New York Times
Science - Harriet Ritvo
"Lavishly produced. . . . Much more than a catalogue. It offers thoughtful explorations of many of the ideas provocatively raised by the displays themselves."—Harriet Ritvo, Science
Art Bulletin - Rachael Z. Delue
"[Not] the first to consider the reception of Darwin within the visual arts, but . . . offers a more sustained and wide-ranging exploration of the topic than has emerged in scholarship to date. . . . Every essay in Endless Forms is captivating and contains significant historical and conceptual insights, The richness and breadth of the [volume is] impressive. . . . Yield[s] a fascinating and rigorously documented portrait of the art and visual culture of Darwin's era and beyond. . . . A major accomplishment, among others, of Endless Forms is its illumination of the intellectual interest and significance of animal painting."—Rachael Z. Delue, Art Bulletin
The Times

“As this ambitious and generously illustrated study shows, Darwin’s theories unleashed a spate of artistic activity in depicting humankind and the glories of the human world. A veritable ethnographic museum in a book.” — The Times

Library Journal

The current divide between the arts and sciences didn't exist in the Victorian era, and this facilitated extensive interest among the general public in Darwin's work. Darwin's keen powers of observation, interest in behavior patterns, and ability to generalize from specific examples allowed him to formulate his theories. The extent of his influence upon artists is shown in the 250 in-text images, illustrating artistic responses to Darwin, in this companion book to an exhibition at the Fitzwilliam Museum (Univ. of Cambridge). Donald (Picturing Animals in Britain) and Munro (senior keeper of paintings, drawings, & prints, Fitzwilliam Museum) assembled 12 easily understood essays (with endnotes) by experts in art, photography, medicine, and science exemplifying artistic themes to which Darwin's view of nature relates. They also offer a thematic bibliography, notes on contributors, and a list of lenders to the exhibition. Recent related books include Phillip Prodger's Darwin's Camera: Art and Photography in the Theory of Evolution and Rae Beth Gordon's Dances with Darwin, 1875-1910: Vernacular Modernity in France. Recommended for special, academic, and public libraries.
—Nancy J. Mactague

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300148268
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 4/21/2009
  • Pages: 346
  • Sales rank: 1,277,271
  • Product dimensions: 10.00 (w) x 11.50 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Diana Donald is the former Head of the Department of History of Art and Design at Manchester Metropolitan University. Jane Munro is Senior Assistant Keeper of Paintings, Drawings, and Prints at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

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Table of Contents

Introduction Diana Donald Donald, Diana 1

1 Darwin at Home: Observation and Taste at Down House Julius Bryant Bryant, Julius 29

Darwinian Theory and the Picturing of the Natural World

2 The History of the Earth: Darwin, Geology and Landscape Art Rebecca Bedell Bedell, Rebecca 49

3 The 'Struggle for Existence' in Nature and Human Society Diana Donald Donald, Diana 81

4 Art and the 'Entangled Bank': Colour and Beauty out of the 'War of Nature' Diana Donald Donald, Diana Jan Eric Olsen Olsen, Jan Eric 101

5 'What is Meant by this System?' Charles Darwin and the Visual Re-ordering of Nature Nicola Gauld Gauld, Nicola 119

The Descent of Humankind: Animal Ancestry, Cultural Evolution and Racial Theory

6 Mankind after Darwin and Nineteenth-century Art David Bindman Bindman, David 143

7 Evolving Images: Photography, Race and Popular Darwinism Elizabeth Edwards Edwards, Elizabeth 167

8 'A Mind and Conscience Akin to Our Own': Darwin's Theory of Expression and the Depiction of Animals in Nineteenth-century Britain Diana Donald Donald, Diana 195

9 Monkeys, Apes and Evolutionary Theory: from Human Descent to King Kong Julia Voss Voss, Julia 215

Darwin, Aesthetic Theory and Nineteenth-Century Art Movements

10 Evolutionary Aesthetics and Victorian Visual Culture Jonathan Smith Smith, Jonathan 237

11 'More Like a Work of Art than of Nature': Darwin, Beauty and Sexual Selection Jane Munro Munro, Jane 253

12 Monet and the Monkeys: the Impressionist Encounter with Darwinism Richard Kendall Kendall, Richard 293

Checklist of Exhibits 319

Works by or about Darwin cited in short form 329

Select Bibliography 330

Notes on Contributors333

List of Lenders 334

Photographic Credits 336

Index 339

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