Vor drei Jahren bloggte ich Ernst Haeckels Naturillu-Klassiker „Kunstformen der Natur“ und ich wusste auch, dass der Mann als Grußkartenillustrator angefangen und auch einige Weihnachtskarten gestaltet hatte. Gesehen hatte ich die aber noch nie – bis jetzt.
Ernst Haeckel's 1904 "Kunstformen der Natur" [Artforms of Nature] is a classic of biological illustration. What is less generally known is that the artist started as a Christmas card designer. The book was originally simply an album of holiday designs. "All the sweet things that the Squiddies/Twittering in the dewy spray/Wish each other in the springtime/I wish you this happy day."
During the Victorian era Christmas was indeed regarded as a 'happy' day, but one of uncanny terror; accordingly, cards and ornamentation featured strange creatures with too many tentacles. But then Santa Claus became popular, and many of these older designs 'fell out of fashion'.
Commercially marooned, unable to draw anything except tentacles and congeries of pustules/bubbles, Haeckel wandered into natural 'science' - almost as an afterthought - when he discovered that the stuff he had been drawing actually existed, give or take a tentacle. Isn't that interesting?