CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Little Beasts: Art, Wonder, and the Natural World

18 May - 2 November 2025

Little Beasts: Art, Wonder, and the Natural World

Exhibition: 18 May - 2 November 2025

Art played a pivotal role during the dawn of European natural history in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Advancements in scientific technology, trade, and colonial expansion allowed naturalists to study previously unknown and overlooked insects, animals, and other beestjes, or ‚Äúlittle beasts.‚Ä̬† Artists such as¬†Joris Hoefnagel¬†and¬†Jan van Kessel¬†helped deepen and spread knowledge of these creatures with highly detailed and playful works that inspired generations of printmakers, painters, decorative artists, and naturalists.

This exhibition features nearly 75 of these paintings, prints, and drawings in a unique presentation alongside specimens and taxidermy from the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Learn about the rich exchange between artists and naturalists that sparked a fascination with earth’s living creatures, big and small. See how this intersection of art and science continues to inspire us today in a new film by artist Dario Robleto.

Organization

Organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington with special cooperation from the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

Curated by Alexandra Libby, senior advisor for curatorial and conservation initiatives; Brooks Rich, associate curator of old master and nineteenth-century prints; and Stacey Sell, associate curator of old master drawings, all of the National Gallery of Art.