Wild life

Ladybugs, dogs, owls, otters: Charley Harper’s geometric illustrations are more than a source of delight. With a never-ending curiosity for the natural world, especially for wildlife and flora, Harper developed a unique style that influenced generations of artists and designers.

Wild Life: the life and work of Charley Harper, published by Gestalten, celebrates the centenary and legacy of Charley Harper, a master of midcentury American illustration: a vast collection of works originally created as posters, magazine covers, murals, and more.

Compiled by design writer Margaret Rhodes and the artist’s son, Brett Harper, this definitive monograph offers a glimpse into Harper’s creative universe and considers him anew in different contexts: as a student, a professional artist, a husband, an honorary naturalist, and a conservationist.

Telling the story of his life and of his masterpieces, Wild Life is essential for enthusiasts of the American master and for anyone interested in midcentury visual culture.

Coral Reefs: A Natural History

An illustrated look – by Professor Charles Sheppard and published by Princeton University Press – at corals and the reefs they build around the world, and the causes and dire consequences of their rapid disappearance.

Corals are among the most varied lifeforms on Earth, ranging from mushroom corals and leather corals to button polyps, sea fans, anemones, and pulse corals.

Bridging the gap between plant and animal, these marine invertebrates serve as homes to reef fish and share symbiotic relationships with photosynthesizing algae, which provide corals with their nourishment.

This stunningly illustrated book profiles the astonishing diversity of the world’s coral groups, describing key aspects of their natural history and explaining why coral reefs are critical to the health of our oceans.

Representative examples of corals have been selected to illustrate the broad range of species, and the book’s lively and informative commentary covers everything from identification to conservation, making it an essential resource for marine biologists, divers, and anyone who is fascinated by these remarkable sea creatures.

    • Features more than 200 exquisite color photos
    • Highlights key aspects of corals and their natural history
    • Features representative examples from around the world
    • Includes photos of rare and unusual species

Spider and I

© Jack Kruf (2018) Spider and I. Breda: Private collection.

We meet every time of the year, at the crossroad of October and November, when autumn is in full swing. Where I admire its art work and skills to create and walk the web. And spider knows we offer it a safe place to build its house.

That is our policy: to increase biodiversity around the house. Spider knows. This natural beauty found its place. We meet here. No, it is not the moment to compare spider with some political leader (global and local), but just wonder and admire. The colours of its body are really astonishing.

Rowan on forest floor

© Jack Kruf (2022) Rowan on forest floor. Breda: Private collection.

On the forest floor I found this small Rowan (Sorbus accuparia L.). I estimate 15 cm high. At the Ulvenhoutse Bos in Breda, the autumn light felt in on the forest floor in the late evening and reached this young tree. The colours are that of the true palette of autumn and where this time of year stands for: finalise a year of (here first) growth,  prepare for winter and get ready for the year to come. Letting the leafs go is crucial for a new start in spring. “How beautiful.

Focus

What a beauty it is, the Morus bassinus L.: the Northern gannet or Jan-van-Gent (NL) or Fou de Bassan (F) or Basstölpel (D) or Alcatraz atlántico (E). I like this diversity of names, showing how differently the bird is perceived in trait, behaviour, habitat or niche.

The scala of names given to one species – this is in fact throughout the complete domains of fauna, flora and fungi – underlines the cultural differences between folk and country. And that is good. It broadens the understanding of the essence of living beings. It is good to have Carl Linnaeus for the common understanding.

This bird dives with a speed up to 190 km/hr into the sea, to catch what it needs to live and prosper. What a focus. And the colours. Oh, those colours. Almost art. I found the drawing from my notebook on our way (with my girls) to Scotland in 2005. On the ferry we witnessed a rain of arrows falling from the sky. Quite a spectacular view.

Bibliography
Kruf, J.P. (2022) Jan-van-Gent [fine art print]. Breda: private collection.

Robin

I love this bird. The robin has beautiful colours. Its orange is dazzling. It lives with wife and children (temporary) in our garden. Companions at home. This summer, the family was part of our household. So far from my perspective and my charcoal pencils.

The present news about dictators, autocrats (on all levels) and democratic power houses brings me to another dimension of this bird. It is of course a personal association, in moments becoming a metaphor.

From ecological point of view the robin is relevant in the food chain. Itself it is a fierceless predator of insects and worms. Hm. Defends its territory with all its focus and effort. It does all what is necessary for that.

I recognise this behaviour in the world of power and influence (as Machiavelli described the world of ‘politics’), reading through today’s headlines – in all sizes, forms and capacities.

What helps in my idea, is the fact that the robin (and with all associations attached) is eaten by owls (wisest of all), buzzards (honest birds), hawks (masters of the wood) and falcons (actors of balance). The circle of life is hard but gives hope. I still love this bird.

Bibliography

Kruf, J.P. (2022) Robin [fine art print]. Breda: private collection.

Even stil voor de Witte Neushoorn

Met het heengaan van het laatste mannetje van de noordelijke witte neushoorn was ik toch even stil. De ene diersoort homo sapiens die een andere diersoort doet uitsterven. De wereld draait gewoon door, het is een berichtje op de vele websites, fotootje erbij van een eenzame neushoorn in een dierentuin. Social media zijn even hot. Ontstentenis of hype? De vraag van de interviewster op de radio aan een expert of we zonder kunnen, snijdt door mijn ziel. Verkeerde vraag.

30 miljoen jaar bestaat dit bijzonder dier, een periode die gelijk is aan 1 miljoen generaties mensen (die er in de huidige vorm niet eens waren overigens). De laatste generatie daarvan krijgt het voor elkaar om de soort van de aardbodem te laten verdwijnen. Door hebzucht en handel gedreven. In de oorverdovende verkiezingsretoriek van de laatste weken – veelal over mensen, over hun behoeften, over nog meer huizen en over de tsunami aan data die op ons afkomt, maar nauwelijks meer informatie oplevert, vormt dit bericht een eiland van stilte in mijn ziel.

Ik bedacht mij, als de tijd van de witte neushoorn op aarde gelijk gesteld zou worden aan de omtrek van de aarde, dan begint  het op de laatste 40 meter (de laatste generatie, 30 jaar) mis te gaan, wordt er gewaarschuwd en zijn er vele bezorgde berichten, maatregelen, onderzoeken, petities en beleidsplannen. De laatste meter gaat het helemaal mis. Hm. Ik zoek naar het woord wat mijn gevoel het beste beschrijft. ‘Respectloos’ komt toch het dichtst bij, denk ik. De aarde is vandaag de spiegel waarin de mensheid zichzelf ziet: een killer.