Maria Sybell Merian
German Scientific Illustrator
Maria Merian is considered to be one of the greatest entomologists and botanical illustrators of all time. Her discoveries in the field of entomology were groundbreaking at the time and dispelled many popular misconceptions about the lifecycle of insects. Her classifications of caterpillars and butterflies are still used today.
Maria’s father was an engraver and book publisher. He taught his children all he knew about the art of engraving, a skill Maria would use later as an adult. When he passed away, Maria’s mother re-married an artist who taught Maria how to paint still life’s. Maria loved to paint and draw, especially the natural world around her.
As a young girl, she was very interested in plants and insects. She caught and raised as many silkworms and caterpillar varieties as she could recording the way they transformed through each stage of their life cycle. She would eventually record the lifecycles of 186 different species. As an adult, she would travel the world with her two daughters drawing and painting many plant and insect species previously unknown to scientists at the time.
Maria published four books on her scientific observations of the lifecycles of both plants and insects; two of which centered upon the metamorphosis of caterpillars. Of her designs, she made 60 copperplate engravings, over 250 paintings, and numerous books of botanical embroidery patterns. Her paintings are held in the Royal Collection, her likeness was featured on the 500 Deutschmark bill, and on a stamp. Numerous school in Germany are named in her honor, as are a ship, a spider, a bugle-lily and a butterfly.
This post was taken from my “Famous Female Artist” series for primary grade art students.