, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp 168-170
Date: 13 Apr 2012

Evolution for the Eye: Julia Voss's Darwin's Pictures

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As far as we know, only one self-portrait by Charles Darwin exists today—a hastily drawn stick figure displaying all the dexterity of a primary school student. It appears in a notebook that Darwin used to record his experiments and observations during his voyage round the world (Chancellor and van Whye 2009, 545). Yet, much in the way that Darwin collated data from experiments that he, himself, could not perform, and sent emissaries to foreign lands that he, an invalid for much of his life, could not visit, he used the images created by others to represent himself and his ideas. In her wonderful monograph, Darwin's Pictures: Views of Evolutionary Theory, 1837–1874, Julia Voss offers a biography of this artistic Darwin, whose magpie ways led him to amass a huge collection of drawings, photographs, and charts and to integrate these images strategically into his work. She also brings attention to Darwin's own private artistry in notebooks and on scraps, suggesting (with a touch of hagiogr ...