There is a complex relationship between artistic and anatomical techniques for depicting and understanding the human body.
The great anatomical manuscripts from the Renaissance contained numerous illustrations by leading artists, who incorporated classical and allegorical features.
A detailed knowledge of human anatomy was crucial for artists striving for naturalism. In order to achieve a high degree of realism, artists needed to understand the structure of bones and muscles as well as human physiological capacities for movement. Artists would sometimes attend anatomical demonstrations, and flayed bodies occasionally moved between medical schools and arts academies.
Leading British artists, such as Flaxman and Linnell, were strongly influenced by classical ideals of naturalism. Yet the classical period also saw significant shifts in the depiction of the human body. The display of Roman busts demonstrates the conscious manipulation of portrait types for political reasons. They provide a striking juxtaposition to the installation of Marguerite Milward’s busts of Indian social and racial types.
There is a productive and at times uneasy intersection between anthropomorphic measurement, anatomy and the arts. Many of the artworks on display embody a tension between physiological detail and artistic creativity, representative types and individual portraiture, convention and imagination.