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The Tao of Photography

A blog by physicist and photographer Andrew Ilachinsky featuring amazing photography and a thoughtful collection of quotations on Goethean phenomenology.


Moskow Darwin-Museum - History, Science & Art

In the 1920s, zoologist Alexander F. Koths (1880-1964) (see gallery) built the popular-educational Moscow Darwin Museum with his collection of thousands of stuffed animal specimens. The collection survived Stalinism and World War II and was on display in Moscow until 1962. Since its reopening in 1995, it has formed the basis of today's huge Darwin Museum in Moscow

Koth's wife, Nadezhda Ladygina-Kohts (1889-1963) was an internationally renowned behavioural scientist who worked experimentally on the cognitive developmental psychology of animals. Starting in 1913, she worked for two and a half years with the chimpanzee Joni, whose cognitive development she meticulously recorded, in order to carry out the same observations a few years later on her son Rudolf, born in 1925. (Worth seeing and impressive is a film from the Ladygina-Kohts archive showing two young chimpanzees and a child playing together.) 

Alexander Kohts worked all his life with the painter and sculptor Wassily Aleksejvitsch Watagin (1883-1969), a specialist in depictions of animals. Watagin created thousands of animal paintings and sculptures, which are now also part of the Moscow Museum's collection. 

In 1913, on a trip abroad, Alexander and Nadeschda heard lectures by Rudolf Steiner in Munich and also got to know him personally. Inspired by Steiner's remarks on evolution, Kohts had an oversized bust of Steiner made by Wassily Watagin. Together with a bust of Charles Darwin and one of Goethe, it stood at the entrance to the museum. 

Thus the three personalities formed a rare link between scientific thought, empirical research and art, while the three busts symbolised a connection between Darwinism, Goetheanism and Anthroposophy. 

The triptych "The Evolution of Worldviews" (below), which depicts Kohts as Faust and Ladygina-Kohts as his young muse in the stream of evolution, was created by Wassily Watagin in 1920. 

The relationships are described in more detail in Hueck, Christoph 2018: Unverhoffte Verbindungen. Das Moskauer Darwin Museum, Goethe und die Anthroposophie. In: Die Drei, 12/2018, S. 17–22, the pictures in Nefedowa, Antonina B. 2018: Bilder der Evolution - der Einfluss anthroposophischer Ideen auf das Triptychon von Wassilij Watagin: ›Die Evolution der Weltanschauungen‹. In: Die Drei, 12/2018, S. 23-33.

Vasily Watagin: "The Evolution of Worldviews" (1920). Left: "Ancient Myths"; centre: "Science"; right: "Dogmatic Theology". Moskow Darwin-Museum (detailed in Nefedova 2018). 

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