Images of Nature
The research group „Naturbilder/Images of Nature“ examines the role of nature in art history and in the history of images, with a particular emphasis on Early Modern Europe. Central to this are the structural traits of the ‘natural’ and their imitation, emulation, and transformation into the arts, e.g. enlivenment, force, form, expression, or even quality.
Images of nature have always modeled ideas about nature, and over the course of the Early Modern period both changed dramatically. In the first place, our work focuses on fundamental analogies and processes of interaction between nature and art, which the above-named characteristics help us to reconstruct for the period. Yet we will also investigate the degree to which, in the history of science, these structural characteristics of nature gradually stepped beyond the bounds of the scientifically axiomatic and became tolerated simply as metaphors, while at the same time finding refuge in art discourse and artistic experience, where they survive until the present day.
The research group sees itself as a platform for dialogue between art history and the history of images, the natural sciences, natural philosophy, and technology. We have borrowed our motto from Titian: Natura potentior ars. The mother bear that reputedly licks her newborn cub with her tongue, endowing it with form, serves as a metaphor for the idea that human art or technology is more powerful than nature. And yet, the zoological paradigm also suggests that this art is already ‘in nature’. Beyond just images of a nature already come into being—natura naturata—our focus is on conceptions of a nature that is generative and in-progress—natura naturans—as both a model for and a counterpoint to human creative power.