More about Maria Sibylla Merian, 2017
The studies of Maria Sibylla Merian are inspiring in the way she created a kind of tension in her watercolour and gauche paintings as she recorded the wonder and the danger in nature. As she committed to paper the drama of the cycle of life she would sometimes add an element of humour to her paintings, most probably to relieve the oppressive heat and relentless insect attack she endured everyday in Surinam.
Maria Sibylla Merian was a German painter and entomologist and was one of the first to observe and record the life cycle of insects together with the plants that they fed upon. Her work on plants, Neues Blumenbuch (in three volumes) 1675 and her work on caterpillars and butterflies in nature, Der Raupen wunderbare Verwandelung, 1679; were all published in Nuremberg and presented a major advance in entomology.
Merian moved to Amsterdam in 1691 and from there she travelled to the Dutch colony of Surinam for scientific research creating some of the most beautiful and original natural history paintings of the flora and fauna of the Americas. Here she discovered and recorded many new species of animals and plants where she not only described the insects she found, but also noted their habitat, habits and uses by the indigenous populations. “….the city of Amsterdam awarded Merian a grant to travel to South America with her daughter Dorothea. Her trip, designed as a scientific expedition makes Merian perhaps the first person to "plan a journey rooted solely in science."
Heidi Reidell, A Study of Metamorphosis, April 2008
The research she carried out there is reflected in her work ‘Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium’ and published in Latin and Dutch after her death. However the authorship of certain paintings can now be attributed to her daughters Dorothea and Johanna, which helps us to understand such a prolific output.