Every Fall the Blackwood Gallery commissions an artist to produce a work for the Bernie Miller Lightbox, a billboard sized (268.0 cm x 176.5 cm, 108" x 72") venue installed on the outside of the William Davis Building (formerly known as South Building) where the two wings of the building meet at the end of "Five Minute Walk". The commissioned work stays throughout the school year. In the summer, the Lightbox displays the original work by Bernie Miller, 5-Minute Mirror (2001), which inaugurated the site.
Maria Wishart’s establishment in 1925 of the Department of Medical Art Service at the University of Toronto remains a pioneering initiative. Most significantly, the updated program - now called Biomedical Communication - facilitated by contemporary technologies, has an unbroken history to this day. In 1941, Dr. J.C.B. Grant from the University of Toronto approached the Philadelphia publisher Williams and Wilkins to initiate the publication of the first North American anatomical atlas. A team of highly skilled, predominantly women artists including Maria Wishart, Eila Hopper-Ross, Nancy Joy, Elizabeth Blackstock, Marguerite Drummond and Dorothy Foster Chubb became major contributors to Grant’s Anatomical Atlas first published in 1943.
Dorothy Forster Chubb’s illustrations were renowned and were commissioned by many outstanding surgeons of the time. Chubb’s artwork presented here on the billboard is rooted in classical traditions and is situated at a boundary between the history of anatomical depictions and contemporary representation.
Grant was the editor for the first six editions, the Atlas is currently produced under the editorship of Prof. Anne Agur. The artworks illustrating these publications have changed the context in which anatomy has been perceived and taught since the middle of the 20th century. On one hand, the works belong to the realm of medicine; on the other hand, the illustrators were trained artists whose drawings deserve attention in an art historical context. These artists used their underlying knowledge of art and science to achieve a balance between realistic rendering and an artistic vision. The works also provide a glimpse of a time when the opportunities for women in medical study and practice were severely restricted. The essential beauty of the original artworks remains elusive and practically impossible to faithfully reproduce, thus the collection and history of these marvelous artworks housed at the University of Toronto has become an irreplaceable national treasure.
The reproduction of this drawing is Blackwood Gallery's 2012 Commission for the Bernie Miller Lightbox. It is also part of the exhibition SPLICE: At the Intersection of Art and Medicine on display at the Blackwood Gallery from October 24th to December 1st 2012. The primary aim of this exhibition is to make visible the artists who created these magnificent original artworks.
- Nina Czegledy, guest curator