Ernst Haeckel was a Prussian polymath (scientist, artist, physician, etc.) best known as a champion of evolutionary theory. He was a bit of a character (to put it lightly) and while many of his theories have been discredited such as “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny” and his ahem, theories of Aryan racial superiority, he did come up with now-ubiquitous terms like ”anthropogeny”, “phylum”, “phylogeny”, and “ecology” and discovered and named literally thousands of species. More to the point of this blog, however, his work in zoology and comparative anatomy led him to make a metric heckload of amazing illustrations.
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, 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.
So yeah, Ernst Haeckel. Boy, could that guy draw a jellyfish. There’s something deeply mesmerizing about old-timey zoology illustrations but these are downright mind-bending.
The entirety of the illustrations from Kunstformen der Natur can be found on the Wikipedia entry, along with tons of background information, should you be so inclined.