Mussels and Snails

1940 - late 1960s

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The biologist and Darwinist Ernst Haeckel gave Ehrhardt the idea that observing nature leads to understanding nature. Haeckel illustrated his way of observing nature with detailled drawings which Ehrhardt took as a link to his photographs of mussles, snails, cuttlefish, corals and sponges. Ehrhardt wanted to show that the wealth of natural forms does not have its origin in chaos or formless waste, instead he emphasized "what strictly technical laws nature follows in its creation of forms and what a model of an architectonic and motoric spirit govers these organisms when they develop the shape of their bodies, leaves or shells".

The photo book Muscheln und Schnecken was published by Heinrich Ellermann Verlag in 1941. For decades of his artistic work Ehrhardt has expressed his fascination with the beautiful forms of these marine creatures. For the film Spiel der Spiralen (1951), which won him his second German national film award, he assembled his own collection of shells. This film as well as the productions Tanz der Muscheln (1956) and Korallen - Skulpturen der Meere (1964) are his formally strongest and most experimental works. In 1968 his book was published again under the titel Geprägte Form. Über die Architektur der Schneckengehäuse aus allen Merren der Welt and gained him new attention.