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

By edited by Diana Donald and Jane Munro

Yale University Press, 2009; 358 pages, $75.00

Kudos to the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, England, and the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, Connecticut, for mounting a major exhibition on the connections between Charles Darwin and the visual arts, in celebration of his 200th birthday. 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, who, unlike many great naturalists, could not draw. Darwin’s writings, in turn, inspired works by contemporary painters, photographers, and illustrators, including the oft-reproduced engraving showing a progression of skeletons from gibbon to chimpanzee to man, and darkly humorous oils depicting apes contemplating works of art.

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