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Art and anatomy: the fabric of the human body

Six-week art history and theory course

Short course

  • 13 May 2019, 6.30 — 8pm
  • 20 May 2019, 6.30 — 8pm
  • 27 May 2019, 6.30 — 8pm
  • 3 June 2019, 6.30 — 8pm
  • 10 June 2019, 6.30 — 8pm
  • 17 June 2019, 6.30 — 8pm
This event has now ended

See upcoming short courses

Part of our

The Anatomy Professor

events programme
Go to exhibition page

William Pink, Smugglerius (detail), ca 1834.

Plaster cast. 755 x 1486 mm. Photo: RA/Paul Highnam © Copyright protected.

Join a group of artists, curators and medical specialists to explore the art of human anatomy through the ages in a theory course inspired by the Royal Academy’s long-standing relationship with the study of anatomy.

For millennia, the human body has been observed, copied, examined and opened up, in an attempt to provide answers to the fundamental questions posed by scientists and artists alike: who are we and what are we made of? This unique course offers the opportunity to learn about the history of the importance of the study of anatomy for artists and anatomical art from key international scholars and artists.

Although dissection was largely forbidden in the ancient world, this did not stop great thinkers of the period such as Galen and Vitruvius from examining the mechanics and proportions of the body, and their theories dominated Western thinking for centuries to come. Participants will explore the early anatomical theories of the Renaissance, when an increasing number of artists and anatomists influenced each other to explore the science of the body. Scholars at this time were not only revitalising classical ideas of the body, but were also challenging them: the 16th century physician Vesalius published his influential treatise De humani corporis fabrica, a rare edition of which is now in the Royal Academy’s collection.

The body-snatching of nineteenth-century Britain, the cadaver dissections by William Hunter and the Royal Academy’s own grisly history with écorché figures – plaster casts of real, flayed human bodies – all suggest artists’ enduring fascination with the flesh and the body itself.

As well as being educational aids, the manuscripts, drawings and sculptures produced during the search for understanding are works of art in their own right, housed in museums, galleries and private collections all over the world. The complicated history and provenance of such objects raises difficult and fascinating questions about how to display and curate such works in both educational and aesthetic contexts, which are explored in this course by anatomical experts and leading curators.

Through a series of lectures, debates and case studies, participants discover the history of anatomical art; explore how artists have always worked innovatively at the intersection of art and science; and explore ways of thinking about the relationships between mind and body.

This course takes place in the RA Schools’ inspirational Life Room which is home to key works from the RA’s cast collection and the historic setting for the teaching of life drawing for generations of Royal Academy artists and students.

This unique course is designed to complement the practical art course: Beyond Skin Deep: Anatomical Drawing and Painting. Sign up for both courses for the special price of £800 (discount offered at check-out).

● Fully booked

● Cancelled

  • 13 May 2019, 6.30 — 8pm
  • 20 May 2019, 6.30 — 8pm
  • 27 May 2019, 6.30 — 8pm
  • 3 June 2019, 6.30 — 8pm
  • 10 June 2019, 6.30 — 8pm
  • 17 June 2019, 6.30 — 8pm

The Life Room, Royal Academy Schools

£420. Includes all materials, light refreshments and a wine reception at the end of the final session.