Natural History Science: Natural History and Art

Although we nearly always think of Audubon when we think about the scientific illustration of species, he was not unique. All naturalists took art lessons as part of their scientific training so that they could illustrate their studies in oil and watercolors.

There was a natural relationship between artists and natural history scientists. Scientists normally distinguished between primary properties, length, width, depth, which were quantifiable and secondary properties (colors, tastes, smells, textures, sounds) which were not.

Natural history scientists carried out their work in terms of secondary properties. As a result, they had more in common with artists and poets than with physicists and chemists.



John James Audubon, Wild Turkey, 1826, Gilcrease Museum Collection, Tulsa