Medical Arts

Clinical Cases and Images posted an article about Merriam-Webster’s Visual Dictionary of Medical Terms (online edition) in 2008. It remains an excellent reference source, useful for medical terms and for general interest topics.

While visiting the Clinical Cases blog, I found and followed a link to the official website of the most well-known medical illustrator of the 20th century, Frank Netter.

I spent many happy hours looking at Netter-signed illustrations when we lived in New Mexico. There were so many of them in my father’s medical reference books. Dr. Netter was an exceptional artist.

Did Frank Netter illustrate anything else, beside human anatomy? Did he have other artistic inclinations?

Frank Netter was born in 1906. He wanted to pursue a career as an artist. However his parents wanted him to do work that would ensure a good living. So he went to medical school near home, in New York City. Netter gradually transitioned from clinical practice, as a general surgeon, to work as a full time, widely acclaimed medical illustrator:

“The first comprehensive collection of Netter’s work, a single volume, was published by CIBA Pharmaceuticals in 1948. It met with such success that over the following 40 years the collection was expanded into an 8-volume series—each devoted to a single body system.”

This multi-volume series was referred to as Netter’s Greenbooks. Elsevier Publishing acquired Dr. Netter’s collection of hand-drawn, then painted, medical artwork after his death in 1991.

That was as much information as I could find in the biographical information from Elsevier.

Frank Netter’s images showed great sensitivity toward his subjects. I remain curious what sort of artwork he did in his spare time, and in the years before he attended medical school. The Morisstown Museum in New Jersey exhibited Dr. Netter’s work recently. It was a large show, and ran from November 2010 through March 2011. More insight could probably be found there.

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