The Physician′s Art

Representations of Art and Medicine

The Physician′s Art

Book Pages: 144 Illustrations: 83 color photographs Published: October 1999

Art and Visual Culture > Art History, Medicine and Health > Medical Humanities

From early times, artists have been involved in the life and work of the physician in a variety of ways. Members of the medical professions have, in their turn, been central in shaping the visual canon of their profession, from the grandiose drama of the corpse anatomy theater to the intricately worked ivory and metal tools of their trade. The Physician’s Art celebrates the diversity and achievements of such collaborations, looking beyond the traditional boundaries of art to the books and artifacts used by physicians since the fifteenth century and inviting us to ponder their role and that of medicine in the culture of their time and our own.
Published as a companion catalogue to an exhibit of more than one hundred rare and remarkable “medical art” objects that was curated by Julie V. Hansen at the Duke University Museum of Art, this richly illustrated book includes an introductory essay by distinguished art historian Martin Kemp. Demonstrating how the practice of medicine and our understanding of disease and the human body have gone hand in hand with the development of techniques in art—combined with such inventions as the camera and the microscope—this book presents works that range from the fifteenth century to the twentieth, from Europe to the Far East and Africa, from detailed medical illustrations to photographs of ivory manikins and an amputation saw.


“[A] beautiful book . . . . If Ludwig Choulant, the author of History and Bibliography of Anatomic Illustrations (1865), the first scholarly book on the graphic arts in medicine, had been privileged to view The Physician's Art, he surely would have exclaimed ‘Well done!’ ” — John E. Skandalakis, JAMA

“[A] fine representation of medically related works of art that demonstrate the value of the integration of the arts and sciences. Any physician interested in synergy of the wisdom of the arts and the knowledge of the sciences will enjoy perusing this elegant book.” — Charles R. Perakis , Journal of the History of Medicine

“[A]n exemplary publication. It is agreeably designed, the quality of the colour reproduction is high, the accompanying texts are pertinent and factually accurate, and there is a helpful bibliography. . . . The book is eye opening and instructive, and makes one regret having missed the exhibition.” — Roy Porter , Times Higher Education

“[B]eautiful. . . . [A] work of art. Every page offers an image reproduced in exceptional detail and colour. The layout varies throughout the book but at the same time establishes a flow that mirrors the experiences of strolling through the exhibition itself. The text is clearly written and academically grounded, providing an intellectual resource far more than the usual coffee table book. This is an ideal book for anyone with an appreciation for art and history as they relate to the practice of medicine.” — Joshua Tepper, Left Atrium

“[M]eticulously researched and beautifully constructed. . . .” — Therese Jones , Medical Humanities Review

“By collecting in one place medical-school mannequins and gross anatomy primers and the tools and tinctures with which the machinery of health has been primed ever since Andreas Vesalius first put blade to cadaver in the 16th century, the exhibition and catalog open up a whole doctor’s bag of questions about the compromises the physician must strike between life and death if he’s to maintain free passage across the pathways of medicine. . . . [A] catalog handsome enough to mingle on a coffee table with the likes of Vanity Fair.” — Jonathon Keats ,

“Like a work of art, a medical image or a piece of medical paraphernalia has a period style. This is not simply a surface gloss, a decorative mode that stands in a superficial relationship to the true function of the item. Function and the ‘look’ of something are not separate, since any action is hedged around by attitudes, hostile and approbatory, and our instinctive visual reaction to any item in a field as highly charged as medicine will be an integral part of the social field within which participants function.” — from the foreword by Martin Kemp


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Price: $29.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Julie V. Hansen, an art historian and recipient of a National Endowment for the Humanities grant, specializes in seventeenth-century art and science.

Suzanne Porter is Curator of the History of Medicine Collections at the Duke University Medical Center Library. Martin Kemp is both Professor of the History of Art at Oxford University and British Academy Wolfson Research Professor. He is the author of a number of books, including Leonardo da Vinci: The Marvellous Works of Nature and Man.

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Gold Award in Books Category, Southeastern Museums

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-9672946-1-2 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-9672946-0-5
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