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Darwin Becomes Art

Aesthetic Vision in the Wake of Darwin: 1870–1920

Series:

Hugh Ridley

This book analyses Darwin’s influence on art and the effect of his science on experiences of beauty. The first chapter discusses Darwin’s great forerunner, Alexander von Humboldt, and his contribution to thinking about the relationship between science and beauty. The second examines the public reception of Darwin in Germany, focusing on the German Naturalists and the important scientific controversies which Darwin’s idea provoked. It shows the political use of science (Häckel and Virchow) and foreshadows present-day debates between Darwinism and Creationism, science and an idealized view of nature.
Against this background the book shows the effect of Darwin on three important fields: the perception of landscape in major writers (Zola, Lawrence, Jacobsen, Benn and Brecht) before 1920; the portrayal of wild life, as revealed in bird-painting; and the understanding of the relationship between the human body and character.
The book brings together for the first time Darwin’s The Expression of Emotion with the work of major European novelists (Eliot, Gutzkow and Freytag), focusing on the place of the older understandings contained in physiognomy, which Darwin challenged, on the portrayal of ethnicity, and on debates about acting, including for the young Brecht.