Illustrated page from the "Natural History for all Social Ranks", 1833
The Renaissance heralded changes in Western art and science that reflected a shift in how nature was observed and recorded. Artists portrayed plants and animals with increased fidelity to nature, and natural philosophers began to replace myths with scientific explanations of the natural world. Each process relied on direct and careful observation and often the artist became a naturalist, or a naturalist, an artist.
Assisted by images of animals and plants, classification helped to order the natural world in minds of scholars. By the late 17th and early 18th century, some artist-naturalists such as Maria Sibylla Merian and Mark Catesby were beginning to depict plants and animals that could be found together in the same habitat, leading to the early beginnings of ecological studies.
Kay Etheridge, a biology professor at Gettysburg College, traces these revolutionary changes in the ways animals and plants were portrayed and how that led to a transformation in our understanding of nature.
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