This post is a day late, since yesterday was the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birthday, but I thought I’d post a few of Darwin’s drawings. As my own art, for the past few years, has included investigations into the subject of Natural History, I’ve become more and more fascinated by the visual culture of science — and the way in which functional scientific drawings also have an aesthetic dimension. Darwin, as it turns out, was not a draughtsman on the order of an Audubon or a Gallileo (Galileo’s drawings of the phases of the moon are quite lovely) — his drawings are chiefly an act of investigation. Of course, much of good drawing, even in the purely aesthetic sphere, is also an act of investigation.
Below is an example of Darwin being investigative, and an example of Darwin being more pictorial (click on them to see larger versions):
Both are from the website “The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online” — to see more of his drawings, go to the Manuscripts section of the site, and do a page-search for the word “drawing.”
Drawing — like writing — is not merely an act of recording, it’s also an act of thinking. Darwin’s most consequential drawing is probably a drawing he made of an idea, rather than of a thing. Made in a private notebook, it looks like a drawing or a twig or a tree. But it’s really the drawing of a notion that would go on the revolutionize the way we look at the world: