Imaging/Imagining: The Body as Art

March 25 – June 22, 2014

Arthur Pond and Charles Knapton, Nude Female Carrying Water Jars (after Raphael), 1734

For centuries, depicting the body has been essential to practitioners of art as well as medicine. Drawing the human form is a fundamental component of art pedagogy, while medical doctors have long relied on anatomical illustrations to understand what goes on inside the body. Yet the advent of advanced imaging technology now allows us to see structures and processes that were long inaccessible to the eye, taking away the artist’s “hand” and reducing the role of subjective imagination. 

Organized by physicians at the University of Chicago, this exhibition gathers images of the body from a range of historical periods and considers the extent to which they conform to established representational conventions or seem instead to reflect the artist’s own observations or expressive goals.

Other themes to be considered are the enduring role of figure drawing in academic art study; the relation between artistic and scientific abstraction; the depiction of bodily suffering in wartime; and what art and medicine have to offer each other in the pursuit of accuracy, humanity, and empathy, when it comes to representing the body.


Brian Callender, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, and Mindy Schwartz, MD, Professor of Medicine at the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Medicine, in consultation with Anne Leonard, Smart Museum Curator and Associate Director of Academic Initiatives.


This exhibition is made possible by Smart Museum's Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Endowment. Additional support is provided by the Arts|Science Initiative/Office of the Provost at the University of Chicago.

Presented in the Joel and Carole Bernstein Gallery.

Above: Arthur Pond and Charles Knapton, Nude Female Carrying Water Jars (after Raphael), 1734, Etching and woodblock on wove paper. Smart Museum of Art, The University of Chicago, University Transfer from Max Epstein Archive, Gift of Max Epstein, 1937, 1976.145.358.
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The Human Body in Anatomical Representation

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