The best books on human anatomy for artists

The Books I Picked & Why

Der Nackte Mensch: Hand- und Lehrbuch der Anatomie fur Kunstler

By Gottfried Bammes

Der Nackte Mensch: Hand- und Lehrbuch der Anatomie fur Kunstler

Why this book?

While the West was busy with postmodernism, the Soviet world cultivated social realism based on the 19th-century figurative tradition of the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. East Germany was no exception with its own figurative tradition at Dresden Academy of Fine Arts. Gottfried Bammes was a professor of art there, and he further developed classical anatomy studies by introducing a more scientific approach. Illustrations in Der Nackte Mensch are precisely measured and reliable, and each of them introduces a new way to look at human anatomy. Concepts such as wire-framing and splitting organic form into geometric shapes appear here. This book is full of ideas, and it has been a huge influence on how I perceive human anatomy. Gottfried Bammes is, in my opinion, the greatest anatomist of the 20th century!


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Human Anatomy for Artists: The Elements of Form

By Eliot Goldfinger

Human Anatomy for Artists: The Elements of Form

Why this book?

Eliot Goldfinger’s book is very precise, reliable, and not too lengthy. Its systematic approach reminds me of a medical anatomy book, but it has been adapted for artists. The book is consistent in its depictions of human anatomy, and you will find each anatomical structure depicted from set angles: front, side, top, etc. It’s not always easy to find reliable human anatomy references, but this is one of them.


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Strength Training Anatomy

By Frederic Delavier

Strength Training Anatomy

Why this book?

Frédéric Delavier is an artist and a bodybuilder, and he’s written a unique book. Although Strength Training Anatomy is popular with the bodybuilder audience, it is very useful for visual artists as well. Instead of just showing muscles in static positions, this book emphasizes motion and demonstrates how muscles look when being worked.


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Artistic Anatomy: The Great French Classic on Artistic Anatomy

By Dr. Paul Richer, Robert Beverly Hale

Artistic Anatomy: The Great French Classic on Artistic Anatomy

Why this book?

Dr. Paul Richer was a professor of artistic anatomy at École des Beaux-Arts at the beginning of the 20th century, and Robert Beverly Hale, an American artist and instructor of artistic anatomy, translated Richer’s text and extended it with his own valuable commentary. This book is an absolute classic. It’s somewhat similar to Goldfinger’s book, only with a more significant emphasis on the movements of upper and lower extremities. It’s got precise drawings of the skeleton, side-by-side drawings that show anatomical structures with and without the skin. Side-by-sides help you recognize anatomical structures in real life. I got a lot of inspiration from this work when I made my book.


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Drawing the Head and Hands

By Andrew Loomis

Drawing the Head and Hands

Why this book?

Andrew Loomis worked in editorial and advertising in 1930s America. At the time, most skilled artists were preoccupied with experimenting and high art. Meanwhile, the growing consumer culture required a lot of professional artists to work also on advertisements. This Andrew Loomis’ work is a manual meant to explain complicated human anatomy concepts in a simple manner – a sort of an ABCs for visual artists. It’s an excellent book for beginners!


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