BUAG show explores intersection of art and anatomy
By Erin Thibeau (CAS’13)
A fascinating new exhibition on campus explores the myriad ways anatomy has influenced both art and medicine in America from the mid 18th century to today. Titled Teaching the Body: Artistic Anatomy in the American Academy, from Copley, Rimmer, and Eakins to Contemporary Artists, the show includes more than 80 paintings, anatomy charts, photographs, rare books, drawings, casts, photographs, sculptures, and reproductions that reveal how artists have been influenced by the human anatomy. The show is on view at the Boston University Art Gallery at the Stone Gallery through March 31.
Curated by Naomi Slipp (GRS’15), BU’s Jan and Warren Adelson Fellow in American Art, the exhibition includes works by notable American artists John Singleton Copley, Thomas Eakins, Paul Revere, and Kiki Smith and draws largely on local collections. Teaching the Body focuses on “the study of artistic anatomy within Boston itself,” says Slipp, and allows the gallery to “use collections within the city that really hadn’t been seen and exhibit works, some of which hadn’t been looked at since the 19th century.”
Working with BUAG director Kate McNamara, Slipp approached numerous institutions—among them the Harvard Medical Library, Mass General Hospital, and the Museum of Fine Arts—as well as private collections and local artists, requesting to borrow work for the exhibition. Visitors to the Stone Gallery are treated to a history of anatomy in America.
Drawing on sources from paintings to medical journals, Teaching the Body is of special interest to not only art and art history students, but to medical students as well. The exhibition includes informative texts that elucidate the history of anatomical illustration and offers numerous illustrations used in medical textbooks and charts. Eerily lifelike and lovely are pieces like Cast of the Hand of Harvey Cushing (1922), an unattributed bronze cast of a hand delicately extended from a cadaver. In Oscar Wallis’ painting The Neck, the artist exposes the inner mechanisms of a dead man’s throat, vividly depicting veins and arteries. One of the show’s most striking works is Lisa Nilsson’s delicate, golden Angelico (2012), a mulberry paper sculptural design of the inner brain.
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