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Leonardo Da Vinci

A true Renaissance Man, Da Vinci gracefully blended art with science and greatly advanced the knowledge of both fields. His intense curiosity for knowledge and discovery drove him to create notebooks of his thoughts and observations on everything from painting to number tricks. His inspiring and original thoughts now fill hundreds of pages, many of them dealing with anatomy. Da Vinci’s background in engineering, mechanics, and architecture allowed him to understand how the body works in mechanical ways. His drawings were often very mechanical in nature, with muscles simplified into rope-like forms and notes scrawled in between renderings of structures. Da Vinci began exploring the anatomy of the human body with the help of an anatomist, but is said to have later performed up to thirty dissections of humans and animals on his own.  His depictions of the workings of the human body are not entirely accurate, but they demonstrate an insightful way of creative thinking that sets da Vinci apart. In his notebooks, da Vinci would make short comments organized in chapters based on their content. In a chapter titled, “Moral precepts for the student of painting,” da Vinci shared this thought:

It is indispensable to a painter who would be thoroughly familiar with the limbs in all the positions and actions of which they are capable, in the nude, to know the anatomy of the sinews, bones, muscles and tendons so that, in their various movements and exertions, he may know which nerve or muscle is the cause of each movement and show those only as prominent and thickened, and not the others all over [the limb], as many do who, to seem great draughtsmen, draw their nude figures looking like wood, devoid of grace; so that you would think you were looking at a sack of walnuts rather than the human form, or a bundle of radishes rather than the muscles of figures. 

Da Vinci advocated for the importance of scientific discovery and the pursuit of knowledge throughout his notes. He used art as a tool to express his discoveries, as well as the discoveries as a tool to advance his artwork. Da Vinci’s incomplete and unpublished work remained in private hands for hundreds of years, so he did not have an immediate influence on his peers. I, however, have had the privilege of reading his notes and benefitting from his influence.

Inspiring Artists

Danny Quirk

Danny Quirk's medical illustrations show the inner workings of the human body while maintaining the subject's personality. Using the human body to make illustrations come alive is a fascinating way to engage the viewer. His acrylic and sharpie on latex body paintings are used to teach anatomy in the classroom as well as to create illustrations for print. In his paintings, Quirk uses watercolors to portray photorealistic images that a camera cannot capture. He focuses on two main themes: the military and anatomy, often crossing the two. Danny Quirk serves as a contemporary source of inspiration in my anatomical work.

Check out more of Danny's work on his website:

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