George McClellan Anatomy in Its Relation to Art

Anatomy in Its Relation to Art

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Excerpt from Anatomy in Its Relation to Art: An Exposition of the Bones Muscles of the Human Body With Especial Reference to Their Influence Upon Its Actions and External Form

An exhaustive knowledge of anatomy, such as may only be obtained in the dissecting-room, is not necessary for the art-student. It would little avail him to spend a long time in endeavoring to understand the minute and complicated relations of the ligaments and tendons, of internal organs and deep muscular structures, because scientific anatomical study, while not necessarily detrimental to artistic work, may mislead the artist. This is often painfully illustrated in modern sculpture, by an exaggerated representation of the anatomy which shows that the artist, with the intention of being realistic, has familiarized himself with the appearances of the dead body, and not drawn conclusions by comparison with living models. It is undoubtedly due to the greater perfection of living models as well as the more frequent opportunity for studying them that ancient sculpture is so excellent, and those who have approached nearest to the work of the great masters have understood that the real as well as the ideal form can be produced with truthfulness only after educated observation.

A general knowledge of anatomy is essential and may be intelligently acquired so that it will be of great assistance to the art-student, provided it is kept within the scope of its object, which should be its adaptation to the understanding and representation of actions or of form.

Anatomy for art purposes should never be obtrusive. It should be employed as a means of analysis and interpretation of motion and form, and thus used will serve to encourage keener powers of observation upon which excellence in representation so much depends.

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