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New Bell Museum exhibit celebrates artistry of insect illustrations by U of M faculty and students

'Insect Illustration' will be on display through Feb. 24, 2013

December 4, 2012

Media note: Several images are available to help illustrate this story. Contact Andrea Klaassen for assistance.

Insects are invading the Bell Museum–but at least these don’t move fast! In fact, they won’t be moving at all, as they’re the featured subjects of the Bell’s newest artistic exhibit, Insect Illustration.

For entomologists, accurate illustrations of insects have long been a critical resource for proper identification and study, especially with thousands of new species being discovered in addition to the almost one million already described species. They come in a mind-boggling array of sizes, colors, shapes and textures. Examining the complexity of insect morphology also is an important way for taxonomists to infer evolutionary relationships. Aside from these integral roles in science, insect illustrations boast another invaluable feature—their aesthetic beauty.

The exhibit showcases numerous illustrations, with the highlight being a collection of pieces by Ralph Holzenthal, professor of Entomology and director of the University of Minnesota Insect Museum, and many of his students throughout the years.

Holzenthal, an accomplished insect illustrator, started his research career at a time when illustrations were done with pencil, pen and ink, and watercolor. Today, he’s converted to digital media and teaches courses in the art of insect illustration for other scientists, students and artists. Evidence of the shift in mediums can be seen among the works on display.

The collection will be on display in the Bell Museum’s Jaques Gallery through February 24, 2013. Generous support for Insect Illustration has been provided by the University of Minnesota’s Department of Entomology.

The Bell Museum is part of the university’s College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, and strives to advance the quest to discover, document and understand life in its many forms and to inspire curiosity, delight and informed stewardship of the natural world. For details, visit

Insect Illustration (Bell Museum)
Thyreus nitidulus (Credit: Joel Gardner)

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