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The Crystal Bridges Library: Art and Medicine

From "Medical Anatomy

A new gift from our wonderful library friend and volunteer Dr. Kirk Dandridge prompts this month’s blog series. Soon after Dr. Dandridge donated the amazing Frank Lloyd Wright drawing portfolios and collection of FLW books, he followed up with a donation of 11 illustrated medical books and ephemera (not to mention a signed publication on Thomas Hart Benton AND a handwritten letter from Benton commenting on the American art scholar Lloyd Goodrich‘s critique of the artist’s biography, An Artist in America).

But back to medical illustration….Examples of the art form can be traced back to primitive wall drawings of wounded animals, but is later seen in the preciseness of Greek anatomical images, the flat human diagram illustrations of the Egyptians, and Roman battlefield imagery.  The Renaissance interest in science and anatomy left us with a large number of precisely executed medical illustrations. The post-Renaissance period brought the collaboration of artists, physicians, and printmakers to produce beautifully detailed color plates for medical education. Dr. Dandridge’s oldest medical illustration book, still in his personal collection, is from the mid-1500s.

From "Medical Anatomy, or, Illustrations of the Relative Position and Movements of the Internal Organs," 1869, by Francis Sibson.

From “Medical Anatomy, or, Illustrations of the Relative Position and Movements of the Internal Organs,” 1869, by Francis Sibson.

The flourishing of nineteenth-century American medical illustration can be credited to Max Brödel who illustrated for The Johns Hopkins Hospital beginning in the 1890s. His ability to scientifically portray medical imagery to near photographic preciseness led the way for other medical illustrators, and the field today remains highly specialized. Reference:

Beautifully adding to the Museum Library’s current collection of nineteenth-century American medical color plate books is Dr. Dandridge’s gift, Medical Anatomy, or, Illustrations of the Relative Position and Movements of the Internal Organs, 1869, by Francis Sibson. The accuracy of the anatomical relationships in the 21 folio size hand-colored lithographs is one of the earliest accurate portrayals in medical illustration.

Next week’s blog will continue looking at Dr. Dandridge’s gift of medical illustrations.

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