The crossover between art and science is something that has always interested me. I read Art History at university and then worked for four years at The Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. In recent years, especially since training as a craniosacral therapist, my direction has turned more towards the sciences. I am currently studying Health Sciences and Psychology with the Open University. However I am still fascinated by the aesthetics of things. Books and places which encompass both worlds are my ideal, which is why the Wellcome Collection is one of my favourite places in town. (More about the Wellcome to come in future blogs.)
I attended an excellent talk at the Wellcome Collection several years ago by the broadcaster and anatomist Sarah Simblet who was discussing the relationship between anatomy and art. This was a trigger to what has become an ongoing fascination with anatomical drawings. Whilst on my craniosacral training I loved the time spent poring over my copy of Clemente Anatomy and I often still enjoy perusing my Netter's Anatomy flash cards on my iPhone.
'Human Anatomy' takes the reader on a historical and geographical journey, combining the influence of several centuries of scientific development with the artistic inspirations of a number of European anatomical illustrators. It is interesting to note how much anatomical art from the 15th - 19th centuries utilises the concept of the cadaver or skeleton 'in vivo'. Partially dissected bodies strike poses whilst taking walks through the countryside. Skeletons kneel dramatically in prayer. Later work shows the influence of of the dissection rooms and the themes become more detailed and structural. The final chapter covers 'Anatomy in the Digital Age' and the influence of CT scans and MRIs.
In my opinion, 'Human Anatomy, Depicting the Body from the Renaissance to Today' is a fascinating book, which works as a visual treat as much as an authoritative instruction on the history and significance of anatomical art to science.
Human Anatomy, Depicting the Body from the Renaissance to Today by Benjamin A. Rifkin, Michael J Ackerman and Judith Folkenberg is published by Thames & Hudson.