Nicholas Baxter

Blog posts tagged “anatomy”

Anatomical Study from Cadavers

One major artistic discipline for which I have the least formal study is anatomy. I find the human figure and its underlying structures infinitely challenging in all of the complex shapes, sizes and movements they’re capable of. I’ve logged many hours of figure drawing practice from live models as well as a few painting sessions but never have had the opportunity for long term, in-depth study, starting from the inside out. Which is why I jump at the chance for any opportunity to briefly work on this artistic area, and recently was given a rare and unique invitation to observe and paint a cadaver dissection at a local training facility for medical school and EMS students.

Knowing about the rich artistic tradition of anatomical study from cadavers, which began in earnest during the Renaissance in Europe, I was thrilled to uphold and carry forward this practice as a contemporary artist. In recent times the tradition has mostly faded, and I relish the privilege I was given for a day to revive it and link my artistic practice to that of the old masters and forefathers of modern Western art, like Da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Titian, among others.

Leonardo Da Vinci, Studies of the Shoulder and Neck, c. 1509-1510

Leonardo Da Vinci, Studies of the Shoulder and Neck, c. 1509-1510

Which isn’t to say that I regard myself to be in their rarified company in any way whatsoever, especially artistically. My accomplishments and artwork are quite meager in comparison with their mastery and all they left us with. What I mean is that, they started and passed on a beautiful tradition of deep artistic study melded with science–a tradition that I, in some small way, have been able to carry on, by practicing in a similar manner.

This day of training, although completely fascinating and enthralling, was not easy. We were set up in an examination room kept around the temperature of a refrigerator, due to, of course, the presence of a draped cadaver in the center of the room. Needless to say, these temperatures are difficult to be in for long periods of time without a lot of physical activity to keep one’s blood flowing and core temperature at a comfortable level. So after a while, painting with cold stiff fingers and shivering chest became the biggest challenge…and amusingly, allowed me to relate in a strange way to the severed and dissected arm of the cadaver perched on a crumpled medical drape in front of me, cold and stiff in its own way.

After observing the technician peel back the layers of skin and fascia on the forearm, all the while listening intently to his explanations of the detailed anatomy and its functioning, my friend James and I then watched in amazement as the arm was severed at the shoulder joint (quite easily) from its cadaver, and placed before us for further study. I gloved up and made a pleasing arrangement with it, and then got to work for a short hour and a half oil sketching session. Here’s the final result of an amazing day of learning and painting:

Study of an Arm, oil on panel, 9 x 12 inches, 2016

Study of an Arm, oil on panel, 9 x 12 inches, 2016

Dissecting Art, Intersecting Anatomy

I’m a bit late with this post, but I’m still thrilled to be included in this currently running group show co-curated by Vanessa Ruiz of Street Anatomy Blog, who featured my work last year on her entertaining site that celebrates all manner of anatomically-themed art.  Here’s the official show flier and press release for the current exhibit in Chicago:

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New Exhibit Will Take the Pulse of Cutting-Edge Anatomical Artwork While Honoring an Innovator

“Dissecting Art, Intersecting Anatomy: Merging Contemporary Art with the the Works of Pauline Lariviere”

On view March 9 to 16, 2013, at S3 Gallery in Chicago

CHICAGO, Feb. 11, 2013 — A new gallery exhibit will pay tribute to Pauline M. Lariviere, a mid-20th century artist and groundbreaking medical illustrator with Chicago connections.

“Dissecting Art, Intersecting Anatomy: Merging Contemporary Art with the Works of Pauline Lariviere” will be on display at S3 Gallery, 1907 N. Mendell St, Suite 4-H, Chicago, from Saturday, March 9 to Saturday, March 16, 2013. Public hours include the exhibit opening and reception from 6 to 10 p.m. on March 9 and also noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday, March 10. Other hours are by appointment. Admission is free.

In addition to original art by Lariviere (1906-1988), a French-Canadian artist influenced by Picasso, the exhibit will showcase approximately 50 recent cutting-edge works in an anatomical vein by more than 20 rising and established artists and illustrators from across the U.S. and overseas working in diverse media.

All of the pieces on exhibit are for sale, including those by Lariviere.

Exhibit curators are Chicago artist and industrial designer Phillip Schalekamp, owner of S3 Gallery, and Vanessa Ruiz, Chicago-based art director and medical illustrator and founder of Street Anatomy, which maintains a visual blog and produces gallery shows.

The show will include 10 of Lariviere’s original oil paintings, which were reproduced as anatomical charts for medical classrooms and offices. Also on view will be 20 photographic glass plates of Lariviere’s illustrations used in the print production process.

“Her unique use of abstraction was new to the realm of anatomical art,” Schalekamp says. “She used it to convey dense medical information through visual symbols that are easy to grasp. Her departure from realism was controversial, but it was highly successful. Her style is still used in medical illustrations today.”

The contemporary artists in “Dissecting Art, Intersecting Anatomy” work in media ranging from oil, pencil, watercolor, acrylic, and photography to sculpture, furniture, video, human hair, and chocolate. Their work has appeared in solo and group shows and in publications.

Schalekamp says some of the pieces were created expressly for the show. Others are existing pieces that extend Lariviere’s pioneering work in applying modern art techniques and perspectives to science illustrations.

The following U.S.-based artists will be represented in the show:

  • Alexandra Baker, Ashville, N.C.; pencil and Adobe Photoshop
  • Nicholas Baxter, Austin, Tex.; oil on panel
  • Sung Jang, Schaumburg, Ill.; hair on canvas
  • Whitney Johnson, Chicago; collage
  • Vesna Jovanovic, Chicago; watercolor, ink, graphite
  • Michael Koehler, Chicago; sculpture/mixed media
  • Robyn Maitland, Chicago; acrylic on canvas/glass
  • Geno Malusek, Indianapolis, Ind.; photography
  • Nathan Mason, Chicago; photography/collage
  • Emily Portugal, Chicago; video
  • Dan Price, Chicago; sculpture
  • Danny Quirk, Springfield, Mass.; watercolor
  • Billy Reynolds, Los Angeles, Calif.; oil on linen
  • Brandy Rinehart, Chicago; sculpture/mixed media
  • Phillip Schalekamp, Chicago; oil/mixed media
  • Stephen Shanabrook, Cleveland, Ohio; chocolate
  • Andrew Svek, Chicago; furniture/walnut

International artists will include:

  • Emily Evans, London, UK; pencil
  • Alvaro Hidalgo, Viña del Mar, Chile; mixed media
  • Patcho Quinto, Quezon City, Philippines; pencil and Adobe Illustrator
  • Giselle Vitali, Barcelona, Spain; pen, ink, watercolor, colored pencil

Lariviere studied art at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Montreal and London’s Slade School of Art and studied medical illustration at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Md., under famed illustrator Max Bodel.

Pauline_Lariviere_TopographyLariviere’s work appears in editions of Grey’s Anatomy and in numerous medical and nursing textbooks. A 1942 profile of Lariviere in the Montreal Standard said, “Streamlining kidneys and glamorizing intestines, while emphasizing their detail like a scientist, Miss Lariviere has obtained international fame.”

As a freelance medical illustrator, Lariviere painted anatomical charts for Chicago’s Denoyer-Geppert Company (now headquartered in Skokie, Ill.), producer of anatomical models and other medical education materials.

Some of her original works for Denoyer-Geppert were exhibited on Chicago’s Navy Pier in June 1948 during an American Medical Association conference there. Chicago Tribune writer Eleanor Jewett observed, “Three beautifully presented anatomical charts by Pauline M. Lariviere . . . are of the greatest consequence. . . . The charts are painted in oil and are truly remarkable.”

The Baltimore Sun profiled Lariviere in June 1950, noting that she “is pioneering a new type of medical art.” The newspaper said she creates charts “which not only are edifying and accurate, but are aesthetically pleasurable.”

Schalekamp of S3 Gallery says he discovered Lariviere’s work while browsing in a Chicago science surplus store, where he came across a set of glass printing plates. He bought the plates and later acquired a set of Lariviere’s original oil paintings from Denoyer-Geppert, where they had been in storage for decades. Intrigued, Schalekamp began researching Lariviere’s life and work and delved deeper into the field of medical illustrations and models.

 

Three paintings of mine featured in the exhibit:

"Sacrificial", oil on panel, 12 x 12in, 2012

Sacrificial, oil on panel, 12 x 12in, 2012

Light of the World

Light of the World, oil on panel, 12 x 24in, 2012

Anointing

Anointing, oil on panel, 24 x 24in, 2012