Biological drawings through the ages

The College of Arts and Sciences houses one of the most diverse set of majors and interests to be found anywhere. It combines artistry, scientific exploration, philosophy and culture. As students, we often forget that these are all placed under the same roof for a reason- because at their root, they use similar skills of observation and exploration. One area where the melding of arts and the sciences can be observed is in biological drawings throughout history. As our skills increased, so did our knowledge- and artistry and science always went hand in hand.

1.) Nativity The Middelrijns (Mid-Rhines) Altar, ca. 1410.











At first, a lot of the biological exploration and knowledge came to us through the specific lens of religion- in Europe’s case, mainly Catholicism. Art at the time not only reflected mainstream religious beliefs, but also inadvertently our knowledge of biology. For example, the characteristic drawing of children as, in essence, miniature adults shows both a lack of awareness for artistic rendering as well as for the biological differences and developmental processes involved in reaching adulthood. As both these facets of European culture evolved, so did our biological drawings.

2.)  Da Vinci and Anatomical Drawings- High Renaissance Period











Da Vinci is perhaps best known for his Mona Lisa. However, he was also a pioneer in the world of anatomy and biological drawings. His sketches and autopsies (done illicitly, since they were frowned upon at the time) revealed a lot about the human body that simply was not known in Renaissance Italy, while at the same time advancing in the field of artistic realism.

3.)  Cytoplasm to vacuole targeting – David Goodsell











David Goodsell is an artist who’s drawings are to-scale, accurate paintings of what goes on at a microscopic, cellular level. His work is based on scientific images and experiments done by respected biologists, while also representing the artistry of nature.

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