Last weekend, I “met up” with the Artists & Illustrators group at London’s Hunterian Museum.
Based at the Royal College of Surgeons, this incredible collection of preserved human and animal specimens was originally owned by John Hunter, but was bought by the Goverment in 1799 after his death. John Hunter is noted as being one of the founders of “Scientific Surgery”.
After learning under his brother William (an established physician and obstetrician) at his anatomy school, Hunter was commissioned as an army surgeon for three years from 1760 in France & Portugal. Whilst away from England he also began collecting specimens of lizards and other animals. When he returned he formed his own Practice, and his scientific work soon got him attention, earning him Fellow of The Royal Society in 1767. In 1768 he became Surgeon to St George’s Hospital, before moving to Leicester Square in 1783. It’s here that he established his own “teaching museum” with the wide collection he had by now amassed. As people learned of his work and research, the museum would also receive donated rare items, including kangaroos brought back by Sir Joseph Banks from James Cook’s voyage of 1768-71..
Other exhibits include anatomical tables prepared for the diarist John Evelyn in Padua in 1646, as well as scientific and surgical instruments belonging to Joseph Lister, one of the pioneers of antiseptic surgery. The Odontological Collection contains an extensive collection of skulls, jaws and teeth from humans and hundreds of species of animals. These show normal dental anatomy and a wide range of dental pathologies.
With so many incredible items on display, it took me a while to settle into a “drawing mood”.. I was too busy looking at all the exhibits! I did have a lot of fun though, and came away with some nice sketches, including a human lower jaw & a snake skeleton. (I think I might be improving a little…)
We finished the day with a pint and exchanged sketchbooks at The Cittie of Yorke. The group consists of a variety of talented people, each with their own drawing and painting styles, so it’s great to see the same space through the ideas and medium of each other. Quite often, they will have picked up on something you hadn’t noticed, or taken a perspective that gives it a whole different feel.
Not only is the Hunterian Museum a great place to bring a sketchbook, it’s exhibits are utterly fascinating. Go check it out. Its somewhat hidden away from the mainstream, which gives it an extra special sense of discovery.
Entry to the museum is free of charge.