Endless Forms


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Charles Darwin, Natural Science, and the Visual Arts

Edited by Diana Donald and Jane Munro

View Inside Format: Cloth
Price: $65.00
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A gorgeously illustrated book that is the first to explore the impact of Darwin’s ideas about man and nature on 19th-century visual arts

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.

Published in association with the Fitzwilliam Museum and the Yale Center for British Art

Exhibition Schedule:

Yale Center for British Art (2/12/09 – 5/3/09)

Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge (6/16/09 – 10/4/09)

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.


Yale Center for British Art (2/12/09 – 5/3/09)

Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge (6/16/09 – 10/4/09)

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

“In an inspired way Donald, Munro and their accompanying essayists have set work by Monet, Cezanne, Odilon Redon and others in a new concept which can only inspire a new generation of creative artists …” — Richard Edmonds, Birmingham Post

Endless Forms … [points] persuasively to Darwin’s impact on his contemporaries – Edwin Landseer’s animal and landscape works; GF Watts’s cosmic pessimism; the Pre-Raphaelites’ painstaking attention to natural detail … excellent … [and] enlightening.” — Jackie Wullschlager, Financial Times

each page contains something beautiful or interesting …” — Artists and Illustrators

it is only right that we should consider Darwin’s impact on the way artists have been affected by his discoveries and the influences they have had on the wildlife art genre. This aspect of Charles Darwin’s impact on the art world is beautifully illustrated and discussed in great depth in [this] superb new book … we highly recommend [it] … a must for any artists interested and practicing within the wildlife art field.” — Wildscape

"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

“[Darwin’s] knowledge of the visual arts was profound, as [this] beautifully illustrated catalogue … suggests.” — Rachel Campbell-Jones, The Times

"The lavish book that augments the exhibition, Endless Forms: Charles Darwin, Natural Science, and the Visual Arts, is quite a fine summary and even adds numerous critical essays by art critics and historians to the shows visual argument." —David Rothenberg, ORION

"The dozen essays in this handsome volume provide much more than a catalog of the works displayed.  They illuminate how the depiction of nature in paintings and illustrations influenced Darwin." —Natural History

"For those not lucky enough to have visited the exhibition during its display this book is a worthy substitute. The art world has widened its focus to acknowledge the strong links between science and art. The content of this book is a constructive contribution to it."—Rosalind Ormiston, The Art Book

"[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

Short-listed for the 2009 Spear's Book Award in the category of coffee table book, sponsored by the Spear's Wealth Management Survey.

Winner of the 2009 William M.B. Berger Prize for British Art History presented by the Berger Collection Educational Trust and The British Art Journal
ISBN: 9780300148268
Publication Date: April 21, 2009
Publishing Partner: Published in association with the Fitzwilliam Museum and the Yale Center for British Art
346 pages, x
100 b/w + 150 color illus.
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