The study of anatomy, Ohio State University medical student Danielle Miller points out, “has been a point of confluence for artists and physicians for centuries.” In fact, in 1632, this age-old concept was famously embraced by Rembrandt, whose highly celebrated painting, The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp, depicts an anatomy lesson centered around a cadaver, immortalized by the artist in startlingly accurate anatomical detail.
On March 9, students of both the Art Department and Medical College of Ohio State came together for studies in medicine and art--through the lens of anatomy--of their very own. Twelve art students and twelve medical students participated, and their collaborative learning was the result of Miller’s efforts: -- she conceived a project entitled “Anatomy According to the Artist, Anatomy According to the Physician,” along with Merijn van der Heijden, Assistant Dean and Director of the Honors Arts and Sciences Program, and Dr. Robert DePhillip, Associate Professor of Anatomy in the School of Biomedical Science.
The goal of the project was twofold, according to Miller. Drawing upon this timeless concept of the meeting of medicine and art in anatomy, she intended to raise money for the College of Medicine’s traditional end of the year anatomy memorial service and to deepen the understanding of human anatomy for both medical students and art students.
The specific events of the project included various opportunities for exploring anatomy through both a medical and artistic lens. First, the twenty-four students participated in a beginners’ anatomy class led by PhD student Derek Harmon, augmented with a two-hour cadaver lab session led by Dr. Robert DePhillip. The students broke into groups and the medical students helped the art students learn about musculature of the arms, legs and heart.
Next, the medical knowledge was applied in a two-hour studio art session in which teaching assistant Winnie Sidharta led a lecture and demonstrative figure drawing session. Students had the opportunity to practice drawing from two live models, with art supplies provided by the OSU Art Department.
The project was very meaningful for Miller, because it fostered illuminating conversation about art, medicine and anatomy. “One of the most beautiful comments about the connection between art and medicine came from an art student who said, ‘The bones of the body are like lines to the artist, the tissues are like texture, and the muscles represent movement,’” she remarked.
The project also succeeded in raising money to help fund The Ohio State University Anatomy Memorial Service, a non-denominational memorial service held each year by the health professionals and students of the Medical College to thank the families of those who donated their bodies for the purpose of educational study.
One of the outcomes of Miller’s project was engendering excitement for future convergences of art and science. Both students and faculty members expressed interest in continuing the event to raise money for the Anatomy Memorial Service.