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Historic sea life sketches make a splash

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A collection of historic, scientific drawings depicting Bermuda's sea life have gone on display in New York.

The exhibition at The Drawing Centre, entitled Exploratory Works: Drawings from the Department of Tropical Research Field Expeditions, features a collection of 60 works, including several painted by artists in Bermuda.

The works — painted by around a dozen artists working under the guidance of famed naturalist William Beebe — were created to illustrate the research of the Department of Tropical Research at the New York Zoological Society.

Mr Beebe, together with Otis Barton, broke multiple world records for their dives in the bathysphere in Bermuda's waters in the 1930s.

During the dives, Mr Beebe would describe the organisms he saw to people on the surface, with the artists using the detailed descriptions to depict the species, many of which had only previously been seen dead after being washed ashore or caught in fishing nets.

Katherine McLeod, a curator for the exhibition, told the Smithsonian Magazine: “The images really speak to the transition in ecology in the United States between a kind of straight, systematic study of taxonomy to trying to figure out how to communicate and study ecological connections of organisms in their environment.”

The Drawing Centre, which is hosting the exhibition, describes the collection as “an archive of images that illustrate the formation of our modern definition of nature”, highlighting Mr Beebe's efforts to “take the lab to the jungle” and his promotion of women in science.

The official description of the exhibition states: “The structure of The Drawing Centre's exhibition will mirror the two salient stages of the Department of Tropical Research's investigations: jungle field station work and floating laboratories for marine biology — revealing that artists and scientists worked closely and productively in the near past and that scientists once understood art as a valuable tool for promoting ecological thinking to a broad public.”

Exploratory Works: Drawings from the Department of Tropical Research Field Expeditions runs until July 16 in the main gallery and drawing room of The Drawing Centre at 35 Wooster Street, New York. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for students and seniors and free on Thursdays between 6pm and 8pm.

Into the deep: Bathysphaera intacta Circling the Bathysphere by Else Bostelmann, painted in Bermuda in 1934
Water works: Long-spined Giant Squid, by Helen Damrosch Tee-Vann, painted in Bermuda on June 4, 1929 (Pictures from Wildlife Conservation Society Archives)

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Published May 03, 2017 at 9:00 am (Updated May 03, 2017 at 8:11 am)

Historic sea life sketches make a splash

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