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This design for a plate is one of a series of eighteen ornamental motives and decorative objects after the example of  "Art Forms of Nature" by Ernst Haeckel. Berlage’s drawing also shows the natural shape on which his design is based.

Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919) was a German biologist and zoologist. He studied jellyfish and microscopically small animals and was fascinated by the beauty and diversity of marine life.  Between 1899 and 1904, Haeckel made hundreds of sketches of the most minute organisms. By exposing patterns and symmetries, he revealed the rigid organisation of natural shapes. These are alluring and visually striking drawings in exuberant colours. Haeckel’s theories about the development of organisms have since been refuted and largely forgotten but his drawings remain fascinating.

Engravings based on his sketches were published as “Kunstformen der Natur” (Art Forms of Nature). Particularly in the first half of the twentieth century, they influenced art and architecture because of the bridge they build between art and science. Berlage attempted to identify a geometric blueprint in Haeckel’s single-cell organisms, stylising them into abstract ornaments within this blueprint. Berlage’s series of drawings include designs for jewellery, carpets, table ware, ironwork, armatures and lacework


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