Angela Bösl

Moritz Meurer, Lehrvortragsmanuskript zum Ansatz von Blättern und Verzweigungen am Stängel (Detail), um 1890, Museum Waldenburg

Moritz Meurer, Lehrvortragsmanuskript zum Ansatz von Blättern und Verzweigungen am Stängel (Detail), um 1890, Museum Waldenburg


Angela Nikolai, M.A.


Research Project

(Re)Productions of Nature. Moritz Meurer’s collection of teching aids for applied plant studies

Until the end of the 19th century, the recourse to nature as the master teacher of the decorative arts had reached a new high. Internationally, reformers of the arts and crafts pinned high hopes on the wealth of forms of flora and fauna as the source of a comprehensive renewal of the formal repertoire of the applied arts. Not only the objects stemming from that time showcase this exemplary status of natural forms. The educational concepts for the applied arts bear witness to it as well.

The project is dedicated to this interweaving of artisanal training and the content and methods of the natural sciences, especially botany. It questions the impact of this fusion on artisan knowledge and practice, using the example of a pedagogical concept and its associated collection of teaching aids, which both were developed by the artisan teacher Moritz Meurer (1839-1916) in the 1890ies. The set of two- and three-dimensional objects (drawings, prints, photographs, plaster and bronze casts, modelled bronzes, electroplatings and herbaria) will not only be analysed as a material interface of the discourse of the applied arts reform and the debate on ornament and style. Particularly, the diversity of the methods, means and materials used for reproducing nature and the individual aesthetic properties of the teaching aids will be analysed. On this basis, the thesis not only seeks to outline the didactic potential of the teaching aids, accounting for the aesthetic and epistemic qualities of the objects and their processes of manufacture. The project also aims to discuss the teaching media as results and driving forces of an applied research, testing the commonplace of the scientification of the applied arts around 1900.


Studies and Magister Artium in Art History, Medieval and Modern History at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich, at Université de Paris – Sorbonne IV and at Freie Universität Berlin (2004-2011). 2006-2009: student assistant at the German Forum for Art History in Paris as well as within the Research Group „Knowledge in the Making. Drawing and Writing as Research Techniques“ at Max Planck Institute for the History of Science Berlin. 2007-2011: Internships at the graphic collections of the Musée du Louvre Paris and the British Museum London. 2011-2013: Curatorial assistant of the exhibition „Der Himmel. Wunschbild und Weltverständnis“ at University Museum Tübingen, followed by an academic traineeship at the City Museums Wetzlar. Since 2013 research assistant at Cluster of Excellence „Image Knowledge Gestaltung“ at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. Since August 2016 doctoral researcher at Center of Advanced Studies „BildEvidenz“.

Research Interests

  • Interdependence of botany and the arts and crafts around 1900
  • Ornament print and template manuals (18th-19th centuries)
  • Theory of scientific illustration
  • History and theory of design


Natur Wissen Gestaltung. Moritz Meurers angewandtes Pflanzenstudium als gestalterische Forschung, in: Kat. Ausst. „+ultra. Gestaltung schafft wissen“, hrsg. von Nikola Doll, Horst Bredekamp und Wolfgang Schäffner, Martin-Gropius-Bau Berlin, Sept. 2016-Jan. 2017, Leipzig 2016, S. 99-105.

Pflanzen Formen Lehre. Historische und aktuelle Positionen des zeichnerischen Pflanzenstudiums an der Universität der Künste Berlin, with essays by Angela Bösl and Kerstin Hille (eds.), Berlin: revolver publishing 2016.

Investigation not imitation: The plant as a model in the applied art teaching of Moritz Meurer (1839-1916), in: modellSchau. Perspectives on botanical models, ed. by Kathrin Grotz, Botanical Garden and Botanical Museum Berlin Dahlem, Berlin 2015, p. 34-41.

Himmelsbild I, in: Der Himmel. Wunschbild und Weltverständnis, Ernst Seidl, Philipp Aumann and Frank Duerr (eds.), Museum der Universität Tübingen, Tübingen 2011, p. 55-65.




Angela Nikolai

Center for Advanced Studies BildEvidenz

Arnimallee 10
14195 Berlin

Tel.: +49(0)30-838-61432
Homepage at the KHI of the FU

Bildnachweis: Archiv Angela Nikolai