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Submitted on
March 19
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43 (who?)


Wed Mar 19, 2014, 9:00 AM


Bioillustrations has been around for years, but lately it's become more of a hot topic. Some universities have added degree programs in Bioillustration including University of Florida. Other universities have established programs such as Iowa State University, University of Toronto, John Hopkins University(whose medical and biological illustration program  just celebrated it's 100th anniversary). 

What is Bioillustration?  It is the illustration of biological concepts and principles.  Bioillustration is all around you. Open a biology or medical textbook, all the diagrams and figures are bioillustration. 

For as long as there has been science, people have been devising ways to share their discoveries. The history of Bioillustration is hard to track down since it is not as widely studied. Instead of giving a history, I'm going to share about different historic artists and biological illustration from around DeviantART.

Famous & Interesting Biological Illustrators

Leonardo Da Vinci (1452-1519) is best known for his paintings. But his notebooks are a wealth of information on everything from drapery studies to his grocery lists. He drew many illustrations of the natural world and human anatomy. Many of his drawings are accompanied with explanations, observations, and other notes. He was the first to draw scientific drawings of a fetus in vitro accurately.   Because of his position as a distinguished artist, da Vinci was given the privilege to dissect cadavers.  Many of his anatomy drawings were ahead of his time, especially the ones concerned with the mechanics of the human body. Leonardo da Vinci worked with a doctor to write and illustrate a massive treatise on human anatomy of which only a small portion was published. 

408px-Da Vinci Studies of Embryos Luc Viatour by Cassy-Blue Leonardo-da-vinci-shoulder-and-neck-3 by Cassy-Blue 411px-Studies of the Arm showing the Movements by Cassy-Blue

John Audubon (1785-1881) is best loved for his bird paintings. Audubon was an American naturalist and wildlife painter. Even though he was not the first person to paint all of America's birds, his 453 life-sized prints are the gold standard for bird illustrations. Audubon was born in Haiti and raised in France, showing an interest in birds from an early age. His step mother sent him to America to get him away from the Napoleonic Wars. He conducted the first bird banding experiments in America on Eastern Phoebes. Audubon also learned taxidermy and created his own natural history museum. When hard times struck, Audubon turned his hobby of drawing birds into his lively hoods. He embarked on his expedition of paint all of America's birds down the Mississippi River. He discovered 25 new bird species on his expedition. When he exhibited his paintings in England, they were a hit. He later collaborated with William MacGillivray to write a book on the natural histories of the birds he painted. He took another expedition with his sons to paint North American mammals.  397px-Falco rusticolusAWP366AAA by Cassy-Blue  455px-Zenaida macrouraAWP17AA by Cassy-Blue 403px-Campephilus principalisAWP066AA2 by Cassy-Blue

Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919) was a German zoologist who coined many biological words such a ecology and discovered over 150 new species. Haeckel was a contemporary of Darwin. He created the first tree of life, showing the relationship between species. Haeckel studied many invertebrate groups including radiolarians, sponges, and annelid worms. In 1899, Haeckel began the publication of the first volume of his most important work, Art Forms of Nature. The final volume was published in 1904. The volumes consisted of plates of related species arranged in a order showing their similarities and differences. The lithographic prints were not static, but full of motion and drama. The volumes were popular and beloved for their illustrations. Many of the species pictured were ones first descripted by Haeckel.

  423px-Haeckel Spumellaria by Cassy-Blue 427px-Haeckel Arachnida by Cassy-Blue  Haeckel Ernst Pitcher Plants by Cassy-Blue

Beatrix Potter (1866 –1943) is best known for her children's books including Peter Rabbit. But she was interested in almost every branch of natural science. Her main focus was mycology, the study of fungi. She researched and painted fungi. Potter was especially curious as to how fungi reproduce. She drew many drawings of microscopic fungi spores and conducted her own research. Potter wrote a paper laying out her theory for fungi reproduction that the new fungi were created by the combination of two parents. This was in contrast to the other prominent theories. The paper was accompanied by lush drawings and submitted to the Linnaean Society, who would not let her present it because she was a woman. Potter retracted her paper's submission because of contaminated samples. As a result her drawings were not published until after her death. In 1967, her drawings were used in the publication of  Wayside & Woodland Fungi, posthumously fulfilling her wish for them to be used in a publication. Potter's drawings are still used for identification of fungi today.  

Potter Boletus Calopus by Cassy-Blue Beatrix-cover by Cassy-Blue Valerie-Hart BeatrixPotter nature drawings by Cassy-Blue

Bioillustration Around DeviantART



Real Pokemon by Banvivirie
Sea Urchin Anatomy by Abiogenisis
Gynandromorph by e11e-k Shigella's Entry into M-cells by Strayfish Biology by MaddRaVen
archerfish and pitcher plant by LeenZuydgeest Beyond the Differences... by ladyofthedragons1 Squid Anatomy by Banvivirie


Written by Cassy-Blue for the Art History Project

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e11e-k Featured By Owner Apr 15, 2014
thanks for the feature
Cassy-Blue Featured By Owner Apr 16, 2014   General Artist
no problem. wonderful work.
Strayfish Featured By Owner Mar 24, 2014
Nice article and thanks for the mention! :)

Just a small correction though - medical/scientific illustration has been taught in Universities around the world for a long time! The program you mentioned at Johns Hopkins in fact recently celebrated its 100th year (in 2011) so it's definitely not new! It is in fact the oldest medical illustration program in North America. I graduated from the Masters program at University in Toronto, in Canada, which has also been around since 1925 and was founded by graduates of the Hopkins program.

For anyone who is interested in this line of work as a career: I have so far found it to be extremely fulfilling, challenging and rewarding. It's all about problem solving and visual communication. If you are interested in both science and art I'd really encourage you to check out some of the programs that offer this degree (it is sometimes offered as part of an undergraduate degree but moving more and more towards dedicated Masters programs).

If you happen to live in Toronto and you go to U of T, you should also see if you can get access to the Grant Museum which contains specimens used to create the original Grant's Atlas of Anatomy, and the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, which has a very large collection of medical and scientific illustrations dating back hundreds of years. They are worth visiting!!
Cassy-Blue Featured By Owner Mar 24, 2014   General Artist
Thanks for the info! I didn't know that the John Hopkins program was that old.  I'll update the article ASAP :)
Strayfish Featured By Owner Apr 7, 2014
:D No prob.
LadyKylin Featured By Owner Mar 22, 2014
Sweet, I just leanred that something I love has an axtual name. I've actully got a colluction of old medical books that have amazing illustrations. And remedies, nothing like a medical book that recommends a drink for panic/anxity issues, and mercury for an upset stomach.
Cassy-Blue Featured By Owner Mar 22, 2014   General Artist
that's really neat! I love old botanical prints and illustrations.
LadyKylin Featured By Owner Oct 13, 2014
agreed :)
Beltaneh Featured By Owner Mar 21, 2014
What a wonderful topic (and article)!
Bit-sinna Featured By Owner Mar 21, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Great article. It was both interesting and informative. :)
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