Darwin’s Endless Forms

The New York Times
wrote about a new exhibit at the Yale Gallery of British Art, “Darwin’s Endless Forms,” which demonstrates the impact of Darwin’s evolutionary theory on the visual arts. Evolution has long been a source for artistic inspiration. “French Impressionism is shown to have been under the influence. (Degas was fascinated by Darwin’s study comparing facial expressions of animals and humans.) So, too, were the aesthetic movements of the late 19th century, with their visions of feminine beauty. (Sexual selection was one of the themes Darwin turned to in exploring the power of plumage.)”

According to The New York Times, Darwin regretted that his mind had become “a kind of machine for grinding general laws out of large collections of facts” which had led to the “lamentable loss of the higher aesthetic tastes.” However, one of the questions that interested Darwin later in life was how “the beautiful could arise of natural accident.” Darwin was amazed by the ‘endless forms’ that occur through natural variation, saying: “The notion that the male argus pheasant’s exotic feather designs could have evolved from the females’ selection of variations over time seems as incredible as that one of Raphael’s Madonnas should have been formed by the selection of chance daubs of paint made by a long succession of young artists, no one of whom intended at first to draw the human figure.”

Endless Forms runs through May 3, 2009 at the Yale Gallery of British Art.

Read the article and view the photo slideshow

Go to the show’s web site – www.darwinendlessforms.org

Photo Credit: National Gallery of Art (via New York Times)

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