Knull, the artist


As we discussed in our previous post, Josef Knull was well-recognized as a curator, a collector, and as an expert in wood-boring beetles. As a taxonomist he studied and described new genera and many new species of beetles in various families.

However, there’s another side of Joe Knull that hasn’t gotten the same attention: his talent as an artist. While moving some old books around the other day, we found a few pieces of what looks like a poster presentation by Joe Knull that provides information on how to draw on Ross board.  This is a textured scratch board for making drawings. A skilled artist, by varying the intensity of shading and, hence, accentuating the texture on the Ross board, can practically bring a two-dimensional drawing to life! According to Chuck Triplehorn, Joe was proficient in various drawing techniques and was particularly good at indicating shape and surface texture through the use of stippling.


Joe’s 1924 Master’s thesis (archived in the OSU Library holdings) contains a number of detailed illustrations of beetle species found in Pennsylvania. Here are some photos of the original plates.

 

Many of Joe’s publications contain original illustrations of specimens, signed with a simple and elegant ‘J.N.K.’ For example, “A new species of Mecas in Texas” includes a beautiful drawing of Mecas linsleyi and “A New Subspecies of Acmaeodera Quadrivittata Horn” a drawing of Acmaeodera quadrivittata cazie. For those interested in seeing more of Joe Knull’s scientific illustrations, PDFs of his publications are available in the Ohio Journal of Science via the OSU’s Knowledge Bank.


We never met Joe Knull in person. Chuck Triplehorn mentions Joe’s wry sense of humor, but overall our image of him was that of a tough, strict, mostly surly kind of guy. That is, until we saw his paintings, the ones he did for fun. There’s a certain vulnerability and playfulness that we did not associate with Knull before and that is very refreshing. There’s certainly more to Joe, as to most of us, than the work we do.

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We thank Sally Wilson, Dorothy J. Knull’s nice, for the photos of Joe Knull’s paintings. She tells us that the paintings hang on her grandsons’ walls.


References:

☘ Knull, J. N. 1924. The Buprestidae of Pennsylvania. Thesis. The Ohio State University.

 

About the Authors: Dr. Luciana Musetti is an Entomologist and Curator of the Triplehorn Insect Collection; Dr. Norman Johnson is Professor of Entomology and Director of the Triplehorn Insect Collection.

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