Akademi och anatomi. Om människokroppens historia i nya tidens konstnärsutbildning och ateljépraktik, med särskild tonvikt på anatomiundervisningen vid konstakademierna i Stockholm och Köpenhamn fram till 1800-talets början.

Torsten Weimarck

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Torsten Weimarck:
ACADEMY AND ANATOMY. On the History of the Human Body in Art Instruction and Studio Practice from ca. 1600 up to ca. 1810, with Particular Emphasis on the Instruction of Anatomy at the Academies of Art in Stockholm and Copenhagen

The aim of the present study is to contribute to the documentation and interpretation of the image and experience of the body by means of two historically and locally specific examples. This image was first formulated in the 16th and 17th centuries by among others René Descartes, and it was given various visual shapes by artists connected with the academies of art from that time on. The intention of my investigation is to discuss – from a Nordic horizon – some traits of what from an epistemological point of view may be called the growth of the modern profane or rather anatomical body image. I have explored some important aspects of these specific, epistemological and ideological contexts, taking as my point of departure the basic pedagogical system in academy instruction, the academy drawing from the nude, especially the "scientific" version called plastic anatomy, painter's anatomy etc. The system was derived from Andreas Vesalius De humani corporis fabrica libri septem ("Fabrica"), an anatomical masterpiece which was published in 1543 with the enormously influential woodcuts by the Flemish artist Jan Stephan van Calcar educated in Titian's Venetian school of drawing.
The Swedish Academy of Art was founded in 1735, the Danish counterpart in 1754, but I also try to outline the prehistory of anatomical instruction and studio practice in the Nordic countries; in fact the study begins with the Nordic Renaissance from the 14th to the 16th centuries and pursues the subject until about 1810, when a partly new perception of the body and the world was being formed. The flowering of Romanticism brought a new comprehension of human perception not only as a reflection but above all as a creative encounter between the individual and the objects of the surrounding world. This opinion, which is partly parallel, partly contrary to the Neo-Classical view, was held by some of the academic artists during the last decades of the 18th century, and it can be traced in the strictly anatomical renderings which were becoming the fashion at the time.
Few scholarly investigations by art historians have so far been devoted to the anatomical discipline of the art academies. The subject is presented in general terms in some rather short sections in Nicolas Pevsner's Academies of Art – Past and Present from 1940, complemented in 1989 by Academies of Art between Renaissance and Romanticism (Leids Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek), where the research done since Pevsner is accounted for by various specialists. Systematic and more specifically anatomical material is, however, presented in an older, classical work, Histoire de l'Anatomie plastique by Mathias Duval and Édouard Cuyer, published in 1899. A valuable, modern contribution is A. Hyatt Mayor's Artists and Anatomists from 1984 (written ca. 1954). There are references in the bibliography to a great many other interesting works dealing with the anatomical aspect, and I would also like to draw attention to the growing interest in representations of the body during the last few decades, at least in the Western world. Mention should be made of William S. Heckscher's epoque-making investigations of a rich spectrum of aspects of the contradictionary Rembrandt's Anatomy of Dr. Nicolaas Tulp (1958), which has been one of the most important and influential starting points for a good deal of later studies, including the present investigation. Among recent studies, mention should especially be made of Barbara Maria Stafford’s inspiring Body Criticism. Imaging the Unseen in Enlightment Art and Medicine, published in 1991, and Jonathan Sawday, The Body Emblazoned. Dissection and the human body in Renaissance culture (1995).
My investigation begins with an introductory chapter addressing the theoretical och analytical background which is important in this context. Here I discuss the historical and general, institutional function and aims of the academies of art, touching on the need for documentary illustrations occasioned by the growth of the natural sciences since the Renaissance. The discussion is accompanied by a contrasting section with some reflections on the body image of the old, archaic world.
The following chapters contain material on the art instruction and model drawing in Sweden and Denmark in the old days, before the founding of the Art Academies in the two capitals. There are separate discussions of the native encounter with continental Renaissance culture and its expressions in the pictorial arts, especially concerning the view and experience of the human body. This can be seen partly in the importation of the academic Renaissance culture, partly in encounters between this cultural influx and Swedish and Danish artists, e.g. the Danish 16th-century draftsman and engraver Melchior Lorch and one century later, the Swedish military engineer, draftsman etc. Erik Dahlbergh. Then follows a discussion of the Swedish academy-like studio-school of the late 17th-century court painter David Köcker Ehrenstrahl, an establishment directed by above all the painter Martin Hannibal and of the theoretical, academic character of this studio. The chapter on the pre-academic situation in Sweden is completed by a discussion of the cast, antique and classical sculpture copies which were imported by Nicodemus Tessin (the younger) in the years around 1700. The corresponding chapters concerning Danish art start with a presentation of the Academy of the Nobility in Sorø and of the Renaissance epoque of Christian IV, interpreted against the common pedagogical and epistemological background that several of the noble academic items evidence. In this context the forthcoming academy drawing and the theoretical subjects taught at the academy, such as anatomy, perspective and optics, are especially interesting. After this follows a chapter on the court and university engraver Albert Hælwegh, the court painter Karel van Mander (III), and the professor of anatomy Thomas Bartholin, which illuminates the anatomical interest that was characteristic of the epoque. Another topic treated here is the close connection between anatomy and the curious baroque style of cartilage ornamentations and scroll-like cartouches. This chapter (No. IV) closes with an account of the founding of the first academy in Copenhagen in 1701 and its continuation at the end of the 1730s, when the still existing Academy of Art in fact opened, even if it was not formally established until 1754.
Chapter V documents, discusses and interprets the instruction and practice of anatomy at the Academy of Art in Copenhagen up to the beginning of the 19th century. Attention is paid to the precepts of teaching, especially model drawing and anatomy instruction. The focus is on the instruction given by the two first anatomy professors of the academy, the surgeon Christian Berger and the sculptor Andreas Weidenhaupt and its historical context.
The last part of the historical section deals with the teaching of anatomy in the Swedish Academy and the renderings of the human body by the circles of artists connected with the Academy from 1735 until the first decade of the 19th century. After a review of the political and mercantile discussions of the period, turning on the social importance of native crafts and commerce – discussions which led to the founding of the Swedish Academy of Art – follows a presentation of the first professor of anatomy, the barber surgeon Magnus Hedin. The main part of the chapter deals with the engraver Pehr Floding and his interest in anatomy – he was later to become professor of anatomy at the Academy. His fairly large legacy of manuscripts on art instruction, including anatomy and art history etc. is presented in a special section. This chapter concludes with some reflections on anatomy and the anatomical point of view, as evidenced in the works of two important artists, the sculptor and draftsman Johan Tobias Sergel and the admiral, architect, draftsman, author etc. Carl August Ehrensvärd.
After the bibliography, a list of illustrations and an index follows an appendix containing complete transcriptions of two important manuscripts by Pehr Floding on the instruction at the Academy of Art. Both manuscripts are from the archives of the Academy of Art in Stockholm; one is dated 1769 and consists of a speech to the young apprentices at the academy on the "Reputation and Rumour of the Liberal Arts", and the other was apparently written during the following two decades and consists of his collected "Materials and Subjects of a Dissertation on the Arts". In these manuscripts the art life and thinking of the last decades of the 18th century are illuminated by an artist-cum-author, who, born in poor circumstances, was educated in the 1750s and 1760s in academical circles in Paris, where discussions of anatomy flourished, and who later returned to the distant city of Stockholm, where he, at times mentally deranged, tried to recreate important parts of this continental academical milieu.

Translated by Gunilla Florby
FörlagBrutus Östlings Bokförlag Symposion
StatusPublished - 1996

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