The Natural History Museum in London is one of the most wondrous places on Earth. As well as all their other amazing stuff, they have an incredible collection of old-school scientific illustrations, which I believe are the perfect fusion of science and art. They are currently running a exhibition on called “The Bauer Brothers: Masters of Scientific Illustration” including some of the most beautiful pieces form the famous duo of scientific illustrators. The best thing about it is that new works will be displayed every four months – so you can go back again and again and always seem something new and beautiful!
If you can’t make it, you can check out at least some of their amazing works here: http://www.nhm.ac.uk/our-science/departments-and-staff/library-and-archives/collections/bauer-brothers.html
The notion that science and art are distinct and somewhat opposite disciplines is a relatively new idea – and not necessarily a logical one. Having to teach mass curriculum in schools and in universities with limited time and resources meant it was basically inevitable the two would become separated by a color-coded invisible wall distinguishing the “sciences” from the “humanities”. Science is breathtakingly beautiful and the history of documenting it is necessarily steeped in art. In fact, just because something is beautifully illustrated it doesn’t mean it’s any less scientific. In the other hand, just because something is scientific it doesn’t mean it’s not beautiful. In fact, The Bauer Brothers’ explorations are both incredibly scientifically accurate and absolutely stunning.
As well as being incredibly talented, the brothers also lived some pretty exciting lives. Originally from Austria, Ferdinand Bauer got to travel to one of the first expeditions to Australia to document the unprecedented variety of flora and fauna that was being unearthed on the other side of the world.
At the same time, his brother Franz was looking after his career in Europe, becoming court painter and eventually keeper of the gallery in Vienna – which at the time was one of the most extraordinary collections of art in the world.