Our new permanent exhibition Aesthetics of Nature brings art and nature into dialogue through the observation and description of nature in all of its rich variety of forms and colors as we trace the history of earth and its evolution in four rooms thematising colour, form, movement and time.
The colors and patterns of the natural world surprise, enthuse and amaze us. The extravagant plumage of the male peacock, the purposeful whiteness of the polar bear’s fur, the tree bark pattern of a butterfly’s wing, or eyes inspiring fear — these are all the result of evolutionary development. Over a thousand butterflies, hundreds of birds and plentiful specimens of plants and mammals provide visitors a fascinating look at the seemingly infinite strategies and rules of camouflage and concealment, attraction and repulsion in the natural world. The exhibit answers our questions about the function of color as allurement, disguise and warning — How does the red get into the feathers? Why can’t predators see it? What makes the humming bird’s wings iridescent? Why is the marmoset’s fur so shiny?
However, the colors of nature have not only challenged science. They have inspired the artistic and creative energies of human kind for thousands of years to search for the appropriate materials and means of reproducing and employing them. Mineral pigments, plant dyes and synthetic colorants complete the presentation of the colors of Nature and the nature of Color.
The variety of forms that appear in the natural world is seemingly inexhaustible — mussels, whose shells are delicately laid in folds or formed in massive cubes, snails that decorate their shells with the shells of other snails, crabs with specialized legs for swimming, others with impressively powerful “scissors". There are starfish that look like flowers and sea urchins whose quills appear so fragile we forget how dangerous they are. The variety of skull shapes and sizes, from the giant elephant to the smallest of bats, illustrates how natural form always develops in service of the organism as a whole. Whether aquatic or terrestrial, every animal and every plant bears evidence of the process of adaptation through evolution, nature’s continual response to the challenges of life in a perpetually changing environment. The bounty of specimens displayed in this exhibit demonstrates the basic principles of the origins of form in nature. The variety of fruits and seeds show how humans have made use of Nature's ability to shape. Through all the specimens` dazzling qualities, the exhibition promotes Nature`s intrinsic value. Furthermore, natural shapes have inspired humans` works of art for centuries. As Biologist Ernst Haeckel (1834—1919) once described the formal symmetry of the natural world, here you will see the "artistry of nature".
Everything that lives, moves, be it in water, on land, or in the air. Visitors can experience the power and elegance of animals in motion — whether swimming, running or flying — by closely approaching the freestanding displays. A group of hammerhead sharks swims through the room on patrol. Springboks flee from a hungry cheetah at high speed and seven swans fly right above visitors’ heads. These and a plethora of other specimens demonstrate the biological requirements of motion and the many variations of swimming, running and flying that have developed in the course of evolution. A selection of films offers visitors insight into the human appreciation for the aesthetics of motion and their recent use of film to document and artistically represent movement.
Fossils from the region provide insight into the evolutionary history of contemporary plants and animals. Four-hundred million years ago, when Hesse was still a great sea, it was populated by sponges, coral, sea lilies, mussles, snails and squid. Specimens of now extinct trilobites and armored fish bear witness to life in the Paleozoic era. By the Tertiary period, the world looked entirely different: basking sharks hunted manatee in shallow seas, and swamplands provided habitats for crocodiles, turtles, fish and frogs. The fossil remains of this plant and animal world stem from the Mainz Basin, a marine basin that covered, 38 to 12 million years ago, the present-day Rhenish Hesse region. Mammoths, forest elephants, hippopotamus, hyenas, deer and bears were found in younger sedimentation from the ancient Main river and the Lahn Hallow. The oldest of these fossils are some 890,000 years old, the youngest 20,000. In this period, symbiotic communities were shaped by a number of drastic changes in climate. Thermophilic species like the forest elephant were not contemporaries of the Tundra mammoth. Early humans of the Ice Age recorded images of their impressions of the world with great artistic skill in cave paintings.
After exploring the exhibit, our younger museum guests are rarely shy about picking up the pencils and paper we provide to try their hand at drawing what they’ve seen. Unlike grown-ups, kids find it perfectly normal, even exciting to see what they can make of a polar bear or a starfish with their own hand. What’s more, this playful process actually sharpens their perception immensely, helping them to learn and understand more of what they have experienced. Talent and correct proportions are less important on this voyage of discovery than curiosity and fun!
Anyone who wants to learn more about and by drawing, can visit our Tuesday courses with Ms. Katja Rosenberg. Drawing means looking closely and taking time to record what you observe on paper. The courses focus on a specific theme of the collection in its natural scientific context, experienced under the guidance of a curator’s trained perspective. Afterwards, its your turn to create! Numerous tips on drawing techniques and methods get you off to a good start and help you to convincingly put what you have seen on paper – from the quick sketch to the finished drawing. For beginners and advanced from 14 years of age and up.
Complete course, 7 evenings for 84 euros; individual days, 14 euros. Admission to the museum is free during the course.
Please bring your own drawing materials. For further information, speak with the course instructor.
Instructor: Katja Rosenberg
Tel 0611 / 940 67 34, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.katja-rosenberg.de
Registration is required.
Katja Rosenberg is a Diplom-Designer (FH) and artist. She has been teaching drawing and painting in her own studio and public institutions for ten years.