Studies of sea anemones and corals, c. 1858–60
Collage, with graphite, watercolour, and gouache on painted paper, with inscriptions in pen and ink
Gosse wrote and illustrated many books on marine and rock-pool life, and started the fashion for aquariums. These watercolours are studies for his book Actinologia Britannica: A History of the British Sea-anemones and Corals (1860).
While Gosse’s book was published less than a year after Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, it showed how far the two men differed in their interpretation of nature. As a man of fundamentalist religious beliefs, Gosse was horrified by Darwin’s claim that living things had evolved without God’s direct intervention. For him, the 'perfect adaptation' of the anemones to their various 'prescribed ends' was a 'tribute humbly offered' to the glory of God, 'who is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working'.
Horniman Museum, London