A New Arrival

The ‘Towards Dolly’ team are rather excited about a recent acquisition by Edinburgh University Library Special Collections: a collection of original artwork by acclaimed artist and designer Yolanda Sonnabend (1935-) created to illustrate developmental biologist Conrad Hal Waddington’s book Tools for Thought (London, 1977). The collection consists of around 250 watercolours, black inkwork drawings, tracings, collages and material sourced for collage-work. Although not officially part of the ‘Towards Dolly’ project, Sonnabend’s artwork and papers relating to her collaboration with Waddington forms a timely and fascinating complement to the Waddington papers which have been catalogued as part of the project.

As we have seen from earlier posts on this blog, Waddington (Director of the Institute of Animal Genetics in Edinburgh from 1947 until his death in 1975) held a lifelong interest in art, particularly in how it can be used to illuminate and represent scientific concepts. This interest culminated in his 1969 book Behind Appearance, a comparative study of science and painting in the twentieth century. Tools for Thought: How to understand and apply the latest scientific techniques of problem solving was Waddington’s last completed work (published posthumously) and presented approaches such as systems and catastrophe theory, cybernetics and futures research as tools for facing the world’s economic, social and ecological problems. Yolanda Sonnabend’s boldly confident illustrations are a perfect partner to Waddington’s imaginative cross-disciplinary thinking. Here is a slideshow showing a few examples from the collection:

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Born in Rhodesia, Sonnabend studied painting and stage design at the Slade School of Fine Arts. As well as being an accomplished portraitist, she is probably best known for her work as a designer for theatre and ballet, having worked for the Royal Opera House, the Royal Ballet, Sadler’s Wells and the Stuttgart Ballet company. We are delighted to have this unique collection of her artwork at Edinburgh University Library Special Collections.

You can see more examples of Sonnabend’s work here on the BBC’s website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/artists/yolanda-sonnabend

All images appear here with kind permission from Yolanda Sonnabend.