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Under the skin: illustrating the human body

When and where

1 February 2019 to 15 March 2019
Royal College of Physicians,11 St Andrews Place, Regents Park, NW1 4LE

Past event

Under the skin: illustrating the human body

Please visit Under the skin: anatomy, art and identity for details of the current RCP museum exhibition, running until 3 April 2020: https://www.rcplondon.ac.uk/events/under-skin-illustrating-human-body.

We are fascinated by the contents of our complex and fragile bodies. Identifying and understanding what lies under our skin has been central to medical research and training for hundreds of years.

Physicians, surgeons, artists and printers have developed tools and techniques to illustrate human anatomy, and to communicate what is hidden inside the human form. From simple woodcuts to high-tech MRI scans, their greatest challenge has been to represent the layers of the three-dimensional body on the two-dimensional screen or page.

Their efforts are masterpieces of art and science. The drawings, books and objects from the RCP library, archive and museum collections displayed in this exhibition capture beautiful and unsettling interpretations of the shapes, structures and textures of organs and tissues.

Visit the exhibition to explore the artistry and innovation of anatomical illustration from the medieval world to the present day.

Part of Thinking 3D, an interdisciplinary exploration of the concept and communication of three-dimensionality and its impact on the arts and sciences.


Drawing of a male torso. Francis Sibson, c.1840–1860. © Royal College of Physicians

Public programme

Artists Under the Skin

Exhibition launch and lecture, Wednesday 6 February 2019, 6-8.30pm

Annette Wickham, curator of works on paper at the Royal Academy will talk about artists’ engagement with anatomy, and the ways they have devised for representing the three dimensionality of the body.

Book tickets

Museum Late with 'Color our Collections' Thursday 7 February 2019, 5-8pm

 Visit the new temporary exhibition 'Under the skin: illustrating the human body' and take part in the week-long colouring fest on social media organised by libraries, archives, and other cultural institutions around the world! Get creative using materials from the Royal College of Physicians collections with free colouring content from the rare books and archives, or find your own favourites and give them some colour! Share your creations with the hashtag #ColorOurCollections. All materials will be provided.

Book free tickets or drop-in any time until 8pm. 

Museum Late with exhibtion tour Thursday 7 March 2019, 5-8pm

Join a curator tour of the exhibition 'Under the skin: Illustrating the human body' at 6pm. 

Book free tickets 


Tabulae neurologicae. Antonio Scarpa, published Pavia, 1794. © Royal College of Physicians

Visiting information

The exhibition will be open from 1 February to 15 March 2019, Monday–Friday, 9am–5pm and is free to visit. Pre-booking is not required, however groups larger than 6 people are required to pre-book a guided tour with museum staff. See the RCP visiting page for details of planned closure days in 2019. 

Exhibition tours

Guided tours of the exhibition are available to book for groups between 6-25 people, Monday to Friday 10am - 5pm subject to staff availability. Tour charges can vary depending on the content and duration which can be tailored to your group's interest. Student groups are usually free. We are now booking tours until March 2019. For tours enquiries, email history@rcplondon.ac.uk