Under the skin: anatomy, art and identity. Extended to January 2021.

Under the skin: anatomy, art and identity

Cardiac nerves in Tabulae neurologicae. Dissection by Antonion Scarpa, engraving by Faustino Anderloni, published Padua, 1794.

Under the skin: anatomy, art and identity

We are fascinated by the contents of our complex and fragile bodies.

Anatomical art captures the shapes, structures and textures of the organs and tissues that are hidden beneath our skin. Physicians, surgeons, artists and printers have developed diverse tools and techniques to represent the layers of the three-dimensional human form. Their works can evoke feelings of delight, disgust, fascination and horror.

Representing the human body is also a question of power. Anatomical illustrations attempt to communicate objective truths about the body, but they also expose questions around identity and consent. Whose bodies are being used, and who controls how they are depicted?


Under the Skin brings the insider world of medical illustration into collision with mainstream art, crossing boundaries between personal experience and the medical gaze.

The Lancet


In this exhibition, contemporary artworks in a range of media from glass to ceramic, performance to sculpture are displayed alongside historical books and drawings to offer personal and emotional reflections on medical representations of the human body. Providing a current perspective on the medical objects, and contemplating our complex relationship to our bodies today, are contemporary artists Andrew Carnie, Amanda Couch, Adelaide Damoah, Tamsin van Essen, Rebecca D Harris, Mary Reid Kelley and Patrick Kelley, Sofie Layton, Lucy Lyons, Liz Orton, Bee Flowers, Angela Palmer, and Ruth Uglow.

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

‘Under the skin’ online

See a selection of the exhibits from the physical exhibition held at the Royal College of Physicians from 10 October 2019 until March 2020. Turn the pages of digitised books, hear oral histories from 20th century physicians and watch videos of remarkable interactive anatomical illustrations.



Physical exhibition closed until further notice

Our library, archive and museum will remain closed for the time being while we work on a safe reopening plan and the RCP continue to support clinical efforts against Covid-19.

We are running an exciting programme of digital events throughout 2020, and you can still explore our collections and exhibitions online. Sign up to our newsletter at the bottom of this page to stay up to date.


Exhibition events

Forthcoming online events:

Catch up with previous events online:

About Thinking 3D

TThinking 3Dhinking 3D is an interdisciplinary exploration of the concept of three-dimensionality and its impact on the arts and sciences. The innovative project puts the minds of the 21st century in touch with those of early practitioners exploring three-dimensionality.

The programme includes a year-long series of exhibitions, events, public talks, gallery shows, and academic symposia intended to incite dialogue between artists, art and book historians, mathematicians, astronomers, geometers, earth scientists, botanists and chemists.