Michigan State University

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Sympathetic Detail:R. F. Deckert and the Art of Natural History Illustration

Sympathetic Detail: R.F. Deckert and the Art of Natural History Illustration

The Art, Science, and Creativity Gallery at the MSU Museum is featuring a new exhibit of natural history illustrations. Before the widespread use of photography, hand-drawn and –painted illustrations were taken from life or from specimens. These illustrations reveal that scientists and artists alike depend on careful observation as a key to understanding the natural world.

The exhibit, drawn from the history collection of the MSU Museum, presents a striking array of 22 watercolor paintings created in the 1910s-20s by the artist and amateur naturalist R. F. Deckert(1878-1971). Deckert spent his adult life collecting and researching animals, particularly reptiles and amphibians, for museums, universities, and scholars.

“Richard F. Deckert’s sympathetically rendered watercolor paintings reveal more than the interests and talent of a talented artist-naturalist,” explains Shirley T. Wajda, MSU Museum curator of history, who created the exhibit. “These images contain evidence about the community of amateurs and scholars who together investigated the natural world, adding new knowledge about various species and deepening our understanding of environmental change.”

These illustrations were donated to the MSU Museum from the collection of Howard Atwood Kelly, one of the founders of the Johns Hopkins University Hospital and a respected amateur herpetologist.

Curator-Led Exhibition Tours
Saturdays: January 21, February 18, March 18 and April 22, May 13, 2:00 p.m.

Curator-Led Brown Bag Talk
Thursday, April 13, 2017
12:15 – 1 p.m.
MSU Museum Auditorium

The exhibit and related programs are supported in part by funds from the MSU Federal Credit Union. “Sympathetic Detail” runs through November 22, 2017 in the MSU Museum’s Art, Science, Creativity Gallery.
more illustrations by R.F. Deckert on Flickr

Art-Science-Creativity Gallery

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