Maeterlinck and E. J. Detmold: The Life of the Bee

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‘The Life of the Bee’ written by Maurice Maeterlinck and illustrated by E. J. Detmold, and first published in 1901. Detmold's illustrations present honeybees as inhabitants of insect cities in an Art Nouveau style. 'Tarzan of the Apes', by Edgar Rice Burroughs; 'White Fang' and 'Call of the Wild' by Jack London were also published around this time, all reflecting post Darwin concerns evoking nature red in tooth and claw. Detmold's brutal illustration: 'The Duel of the Queens' (below), where one virgin queen honeybee mercilessly slaughters her rival sister, and Maeterlinck's chapter on the callous annual eviction of the honeybee drones, makes one's blood run cold. A feeling not often associated with the industrious honeybee. However, Detmold balances the apparent brutality of honeybee society with pastoral scenes of happy honeybees collecting nectar, that do reflect the decorative qualities of the Art Nouveau period.
 
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