Rimer Cardillo’s Insects
Carlos S. Carbonell


It seems to me that man, from the earliest times to the present, has always felt — obscurely maybe — that all warm-blooded animals were in some way "next of kin." Mammals such as dogs and horses, but even bears, lions and elephants were thought in some way relations. And birds too were relatives, maybe twice removed. Lizards, snakes, frogs and fish seemed farther away. But anatomists found that they were made roughly on the same blueprints as man. Then came Darwin and explained everything. Yes, we are all related, in spite of those who want man created apart.
But there are other beings that do not fit that scheme. What about a starfish or a jellyfish, an earthworm or an insect? Insects are everywhere, and never fail to interest man. Some butterflies and beetles are obviously beautiful. But most insects are beautiful when observed through a microscope. Also, they are utterly different from us in their anatomy and way of living. As compared with our kind, the vertebrate kind, they look like the inhabitants of another planet in another solar system.
Beauty or strangeness never fails to attract man. I have been interested in the insects since I can remember. When Rimer Cardillo was living in Uruguay, many years ago, he used to come to my home and spend long hours observing insects through a microscope, and drawing them. He is no entomologist of course. But he is a born artist, and had discovered by himself the beauty of insects.
There are books published more than a century ago, with wonderful illustrations that were made as engravings on copper plates, and then printed and colored by hand with watercolors. Thinking as an entomologist, it seemed to me that nothing better could be done. But what about Cardillo's insects? They are not intended for entomologists. They are for everybody (entomologists included). I have always found them very attractive; comparing them with other excellent illustrations in books about insects, I have discovered why. Cardillo's insects are not "the insect" like the illustrations in a textbook. Each one is a unique personal insect at a particular moment of its life. He can make a score of drawings of the same insect, and they will all be different. And that is why they belong in another realm than the illustrations in an entomology textbook or scientific paper. Each of the insects depicted by Cardillo has its own peculiar personality. Could they speak to each other, one feels, they would have different thoughts, different opinions about everything.


Carlos S. Carbonell is a professional entomologist and has worked as such all his life. His self-taught training began in his grammar school years, and later, in a still informal way with a senior entomologist who was then retired. He graduated in1945 from the University of Uruguay, and then spent some time in the USA doing post-graduate studies under R. E. Snodgrass, a world-famous entomologist. Back in his own country, his early activities were in applied entomology that he never found quite to his taste. Later he joined the staff of the University of Uruguay (College of Sciences) and become the first professor of theoretical Entomology in his country. Since then, and to his retirement in 1985, he lectured at the University of Uruguay, and also, during the dark years of the military government, at the University of Rio de Janeiro. But his main activities have been research, which he has always preferred to teaching and that he continues to this day. His field work has taken him to most of the countries in South America, and his laboratory work to many museums and universities in the Americas and Europe. He has published more than 60 research papers, illustrated with his own drawings.