A joint body of work

May 2, 1997

Jonathan Sawday ("Livid and the dead", THES, April 18), did not go far enough in highlighting the plight of art and science.

The human body has often been seen as a tool from which to learn. Dead or alive, real or artificial, the body has taken on many guises. The founding of the Royal Academy of Arts in 1768, with painter Joshua Reynolds as its president and Dr William Hunter as its professor of anatomy, succeeded in uniting art and medicine. But such an overlap is imbued with complicated concepts and cannot be oversimplified. The split in the 19th century between art and science has been described by historian C. P. Snow as the making of two cultures. The art-anatomy folios, the dissecting classes and the artificially constructed mannequins of the 18th century, therefore, can be seen to connect art with science. It is in this way art education and medical training became a catalyst, bringing about new ways of seeing the body: as a whole.

Perhaps if we had a more holistic view of art and medicine then the furore over Anthony-Noel Kelly's works of art would not have taken place. Is it too much to hope that education might yet again act as a catalyst in uniting seemingly segregated topics?

Anne Abichou

Art and design academic group

Institute of Education

University of London

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