Thursday, April 14, 2011

"Anatomy/Academy" exhibition at Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts

On Sunday I went to Philadelphia to see an exhibition called "Anatomy/Academy, Philadelphia Nexus of Art and Science". The exhibition was at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (PaFa). PaFa is the first art school and museum in the US, founded in 1805 by several artists including Charles Willson Peale, and sculptor William Rush. Past students include luminaries such as Thomas Eakins (who was also an influential teacher), Mary Cassatt, Maxfield Parrish, Cecilia Beaux and John Sloan.


Interior view of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.

The exhibition "Anatomy /Academy" includes an eclectic collection of works by many artists including Thomas Eakins. One of the exhibition highlights is Eakins' brilliant masterpiece the "Portrait of Dr. Samuel D. Gross" also know as the "Gross Clinic". Thomas Eakins dissection drawings of horses, cats, dogs and humans are including along with his notes such as one critiquing "Gray's Anatomy"'s depiction of the teres major muscle. A series of casts made from the cadaver of a young, muscular man who died suddenly are also on view.


"Portrait of Dr. Samuel D. Gross" by Thomas Eakins, 1875.

Among the highlights for me was a series of large painted wooden sculptures by William Rush created for the famous anatomist Dr. Caspar Wistar to use for teaching. My favorite was a enormous sphenoid bone that looks like a modern sculpture. The sphenoid bone, is a cranial bone shaped like a butterfly, and is among my favorite bones.

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Sphenoid bone sculpture by William Rush, wood and paint, 1808.

There is a companion exhibition to "Anatomy/Academy" also at PaFa and it is called "Anatomy Now". This exhibition includes works by modern artists who include or react to anatomy in some way. Featured in this show were works by Phillip Pearlstein, Patricia Traub, Michael Grimaldi and Roberto Osti.


Roberto Osti's drawing from the "Anatomy Now" exhibit.

Both these exhibits close on April 17, 2011.

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