Selections from the Netter Collection of Medical Illustrations
Illustrations by Frank H. Netter, MD John A. Craig, MD James Perkins, MS, MFA
Text by John T. Hansen, PhD Bruce M. Koeppen, MD, PhD
Atlas of Neuroanatomy and Neurophysiology Selections from the Netter Collection of Medical Illustrations
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Frank Netter: The Physician, The Artist, The Art
This selection of the art of Dr. Frank H. Netter onneuroanatomy and neurophysiology is drawn from the Atlas of Human Anatomy and Netter’s Atlas of Human Physiology. Viewing these pictures again prompts reflection on Dr. Netter’s work and his roles as physician and artist. Frank H. Netter was born in 1906 in New York City. He pursued his artistic muse at the Sorbonne, the Art Student’s League, and the National Academy of Design before enteringmedical school at New York University, where he received his M.D. degree in 1931. During his student years, Dr. Netter’s notebook sketches attracted the attention of the medical faculty and other physicians, allowing him to augment his income by illustrating articles and textbooks. He continued illustrating as a sideline after establishing a surgical practice in 1933, but ultimately opted to give uphis practice in favor of a full-time commitment to art. After service in the United States Army during the Second World War, Dr. Netter began his long collaboration with the CIBA Pharmaceutical Company (now Novartis Pharmaceuticals). This 45-year partnership resulted in the production of the extraordinary collection of medical art so familiar to physicians and other medical professionals worldwide.When Dr. Netter’s work is discussed, attention is focused primarily on Netter the artist and only secondarily on Netter the physician. As a student of Dr. Netter’s work for more than forty years, I can say that the true strength of a Netter illustration was always established well before brush was laid to paper. In that respect each plate is more of an intellectual than an artistic or aestheticexercise. It is easy to appreciate the aesthetic qualities of Dr. Netter’s work, but to overlook its intellectual qualities is to miss the real strength and intent of the art. This intellectual process requires thorough understanding of the topic, as Dr. Netter wrote: “Strange as it may seem, the hardest part of making a medical picture is not the drawing at all. It is the planning, the conception,the determination of point of view and the approach which will best clarify the subject which takes the most effort.” Years before the inception of “the integrated curriculum,” Netter the physician realized that a good medical illustration can include clinical information and physiologic functions as well as anatomy. In pursuit of this principle Dr. Netter often integrates pertinent basic andclinical science elements in his anatomic interpretations. Although he was chided for this heresy by a prominent European anatomy professor, many generations of students training to be physicians rather than anatomists have appreciated Dr. Netter’s concept. The integration of physiology and clinical medicine with anatomy has led Dr. Netter to another, more subtle, choice in his art. Many texts and...