History of Medicine
Visible and Visionary
Dreaming anatomy in modernity
By 1800, anatomy had been defined as a science—the investigation of the real—rather than an art. Anatomy could no longer tolerate humor, fancy, and ornament. Yet fantastic images of the anatomical body continued to proliferate. Cast out of medical illustration, imaginative anatomy found new homes: in academic art, where anatomy was an important part of the curriculum; in popular health, where the need to appeal to the public, and a free hand, inspired the creation of vivid, playful, and eccentric images; and in political cartoons, film, and fiction—wherever anatomical images could be made to serve.
In our time, photography, radiography, digital imaging, and computer modeling have multiplied the possibilities for manipulation and play. Artists and scientists are again exploring and re-imagining the body, and investigating the boundaries between their respective disciplines. We continue to dream the anatomical body.