Still Life

The Art of Anatomy

10 July 2010 - 12 September 2010

Dunedin has a substantial and distinguished history in the fields of both the arts and medicine.    

Founded in 1884, the Dunedin Public Art Gallery is the oldest public art gallery in New Zealand. The Otago Medical School, which opened in 1875 was also the first of its kind in this country.  Many of New Zealand’s most significant artists and medical pioneers have come from here – the artist Frances Hodgkins, Emily Siedeberg, who in 1891 was the first woman to enter Dunedin’s Medical School, and the famous WW2 plastic surgeon Sir Archibald McIndoe. 

A key figure in Dunedin’s early medical and art world, was Dr John Halliday Scott (1851-1914), the first Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Otago and a water colour painter of considerable merit. He created his own anatomical drawings as teaching tools for his students, painted atmospheric views of the local landscape and was involved in the establishment of the Dunedin Public Art Gallery.       

This exhibition features a selection of Scott’s work.Other highlights include old master prints and drawings, contemporary paintings and photographs and a delicate set of wax models showing a developing embryo heart - one of the only complete sets anywhere in the world. There is too, a suite of life-sized porcelain torsos, an extraordinary papier mâché anatomical man, an exceptional 16th century anatomical pop up book and a very early copy of the first modern anatomy textbook by Versalius: the father of modern anatomy. 

Historically anatomists used the best artists to illustrate the body and artists sought access to the body to enhance their understanding and depiction of it. Today, the relationship between art and anatomy remains close and has an on-going dynamic. Contemporary artists reference historical anatomical images and aspects of human anatomy in their work, whilst anatomy teachers use cutting edge techniques; photography and computer generated images to teach the next generation of medical students.

All of the works of art and objects in Still Life: the Art of Anatomy, (with the exception of Tony Fomison’s disturbingly moving TheDead Christ (#38), lent by the Waikato Museum of Art and History), come from local private lenders and public collections – specifically, the Dunedin Public Art Gallery, the Hocken Collections and the School of Medical Sciences.

Curated by Dr Paul Trotman and Robyn Notman Public Programmes Manager, Dunedin Public Art Gallery, this exhibition provides an insight into the fascinating subject of art and anatomy, revealing something of the important lineage that science and art share through the analysis, distillation and depiction of the human form.

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