The Art of Evolution: Creativity and Darwin

Evolutionary ideas appear in art as reflections of questions such as who are our ancestors, how are we connected to our parents, what is our true nature, and what is next for man?

Artists from the earliest cave drawings have seen animals and tried to capture their essence in art. One of the earliest reflections of evolutionary ideas in art was depicting primates and humans together. Editorial cartoons reflected the philosophical quandary: Are we balding apes or are primates simply unclad humans? Comic artists put clothes on apes to parody the idea that we could be related. More serious artists painted primates doing human activities or simply contemplating a human skull.

Evolutionary theory has its own language and symbols. Visual shorthand symbols for evolution include clichés like the fish evolving into the lizard evolving into the ape evolving into the man. Another symbol is that of the evolutionary tree. It works as a way of expressing how things change through time and we use it as a visual metaphor to explain how the complex arises from the simple. Finally we have learned the shapes of our own chromosomes and the DNA within. These shapes imply the ultimate artistic dream, for the artist to sculpt life itself.