While digging through MIR’s extensive collection of artist sketchbooks,the staff recently unearthed a peculiar set of anatomical drawings executed by Karl Brandner. The drawings include internal views of arms, legs and hips and highlight the human body’s complexity by capturing the innumerable amount of tendons, muscles, bones, arteries and veins that make movement possible. Executed in an aged rectangular sketchbook, the drawings are rendered in pencil, employing a skillful use of shading that aides the stunning three-dimensional drawings that were never meant to be seen by the public.
Relatively little is known about the private life of Karl Brandner, but many of his artworks are housed in public and private collections throughout the United States. Brandner was born in Oak Park, Illinois, in 1898 and is best remembered for his landscapes and architectural drawings. The trees in his artwork are particularly stunning and share many of the organic forms captured in his depictions of veins and muscle matter. Brandner was trained as an artist at the Art Institute of Chicago and at the Chicago Fine Art Academy and worked in the Chicagoland area for the majority of his life, exhibiting often until his death in 1961.
The tradition of studying the body’s hidden structure is quite old and would have been an imperative part of the artistic training even in Brandner’s day. History notes that the European Old Masters were and still are widely respected for their commitment to drawing the internal structures of the body in order to better understand and depict the human form in art. Interest in anatomy was fostered during the Renaissance and artists often kept up on the scientific developments of the day, creating interdisciplinary links between the arts and the human sciences. Much of this information was gained through dissection (fortunes of questionable merit were amassed by suppliers of corpses) and often écorché figures were created capturing the human body void of skin and fat for the artist’s education. The term, écorché, literally means ‘flayed’ in French, and the practice of creating such pieces was developed during the 16th century.
These models and anatomical representations have fascinated the public of past and present. One of the most noteworthy examples of this form of art is Rembrandt’s “Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp,” which depicts a group of 17th century physicians carefully dissecting the right arm of a recently executed criminal. Recently in the news is a statue of a flayed former criminal executed in England in the 18th century. With a menacing title of “Smugglerius,” the cast is posed like the ancient sculpture known as "The Dying Gaul." Originally cast by Agostino Carlini, the piece has since been lost, but a copy created in the 19th century by William Pink remains at the Edinburgh College of Art. A more contemporary interest in such imagery can be seen in the traveling exhibition known as "Body Worlds."
MIR Appraisal Services, Inc. houses a great deal of exciting artwork but is most interested in appraising yours. With a staff of researchers and appraisers from a variety of backgrounds, MIR is best suited to help you discover the stories behind your family’s heirlooms and undiscovered treasures. We encourage you to call and find out about our appraisal options.
Written and Researched by Justin Bergquist
MIR Appraisal Services, Inc.
Principal Appraiser and Director: Farhad Radfar, ISA, AM
307 N. Michigan Avenue, Suite 308
Chicago, IL 60601
“Edinburgh College of Art Reveals Mystery Behind Cast of an Unknown Criminal,” on Artdaily.org
Attractive China Plate from early Qing Dynasty
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