Artistical Anatomy

Human Anatomy is not only fascinating to learn about- it is also fun to look at through an artistic lens. I own two anatomy atlases- Gray’s Anatomy, the standard, black-and-white, surgically-oriented atlas, and I also own Netter’s Atlas of Human Anatomy. Frank Netter, MD was an incredible artist who sketched and painted hundreds, probably thousands, of medical illustrations. He depicts the anatomy both perfectly as one would find in a human body, and also shaded, colored, and textured so that it seems like the image is three-dimensional. Often during bouts of frustration and confusion during memorizing the seemingly endless vocabulary of the anatomy, I will stop and simply admire the pictures in my book.

I recently went to a BodyWorlds exhibit, and aside from being jealous of Gunther von Hagens extraordinary dissection skills, I was in utter awe of the complex beauty of the human body, inside and out. He uses plastination on his corpses to preserve them, and he molds them into positions that optimally display certain organs and systems. For instance, there was a man kicking a soccer ball mid-air, displaying leg muscles, a ballerina with a gluteal muscle skirt, and a skateboarder inverted off a ramp with organs and muscles visible. To put it bluntly, he makes totally skinned dead people look visually inviting. I often find myself admiring the human body in school- ahem, obviously the outside can be quite nice to look at, but what I mean here is the craftsmanship of all the parts working together to make a living, breathing, moving human.  We are truly beautifully designed machines- from the seamlessly aligned articulations of our joints, the theme of undulating folds that are first seen the brain, then again along the gastrointestinal tract, the many ribbons of nerves, arteries, and veins, to how ribs arch in synchrony… Without taking into account the physiology of any of it- our bodies are elegant creations.

I’ll admit, some people get sqeamish with the anatomical aesthetic, perhaps working with cadavers has desensitized me to seeing inner-body parts. But still, anatomy images are ubiquitous- the skull is often artistically rendered in tattoos, sweatshirt designs, car decals, etc. I’m not the only person who thinks our guts are glorious. When I stumbled across, I discovered there is a whole community of illustrators, designers, and artists who use anatomy as their subject.

Here’s a sample from the site, I urge you to check it out!

all images from