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Human Structure and Shape – S3Publishing

Human Structure and Shape

John Hull Grundy

…a knowledge of muscles and bones is not enough for the anatomical draughtsman; he must also have a reverence for the parts, engendered by a deeper understanding and sympathy with the nature of the Human Machine, which constitutes the most perfect and free-living structure in existence.”

Much wanted and practically unfindable anatomy book. Wanted by medics, artists, body workers, dancers and moi. The work has a flowing, connected quality that sets it apart from the Mr Muscle charts hanging on clinic walls. His artwork on bugs (insects) is more widely known than his work on human anatomy. He was a gifted teacher and lecturer, and a perfectionist in his draughtsmanship; he was known to tear up an almost perfect and completed picture because of a small inaccuracy. It would break the hearts of some of his students to watch him erase the most exacting and superbly executed drawings from the blackboard as if they were mere doodles.



John Hull Grundy studied art at King’s College and the Chelsea School of Art in London before joining the staff of the Royal College of Art. The advent of World War II drew him into the world of medicine, and he developed his drawing of the body with anatomical studies made for the Royal College of Surgeons and the Orpington War Hospital. In 1942, he began as lecturer in Entomology at the Royal Army Medical College in London, a post he kept until his retirement in 1967. On his retirement, he was named a member of the British Empire (MBE). There is not a lot on Grundy on the web but I found a a good article by Thomas Myers on him in the AMTA journal. Myers writes:
„Human Structure and Shape was compiled in the early 1980s by Dr. Smith from drawings that spanned Grundy’s entire career, beginning in the 1920s. Therefore, the pictures display an incredible variety of style and method. They also display a remarkable set of insights into human movement unequaled in both visual accessibility and simple common sense.”
To give some flavor of his thinking… here are a few quotes from his brief introduction to the book: „The word Anatomy has a Greek derivation, ana-up, and temno-to cut, and means the study of the animal machine by taking it to pieces in order to understand and reconstruct it in the memory.”
I love this part about reconstructing it in the memory. In the massage profession, the study of anatomy suffers precisely because so much of its presentation is not memorable. Part of this situation is that, in order to feel „professional,” massage schools have sought out medical practitioners-doctors, chiropractors, etc.-in an attempt to enhance the credibility of their programs. While the motivation concerning lifting the profession is laudable, the end result is often that massage students are being taught aspects of anatomy more relevant to medical pathology than to the daily practice of hands-on soft-tissue work, so the anatomy is forgotten as irrelevant.
For the massage therapist, the reason for studying anatomy is very simple: When you can „reconstruct in your memory” the structures under your hands, your intuitions, perceptions and assessments about those structures will be more clear and more reliable. The study of anatomy is not anathema to intuition; to the contrary, it is one of its strongest pillars of support. But it has to be taught memorably….”Doctors and medical men want to know about function more than they do about shape. The Artist, on the other hand, is chiefly interested in the shape itself. Nature is such a good Architect that she shapes her work so that it efficiently performs its duties,” he writes.
Grundy goes on to excoriate both medical and artistic anatomies for not successfully combining the two ends of the spectrum, and urges the student to follow the example of Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci by personally exploring without being frightened or bored by the complexity of the body. The student should push through, drawn by his reason, to „fill in the empty spaces in the ranks of culture, as well as using his brain on the most wonderful thing ever constructed.”
Though Grundy’s respect for the body was boundless, he knew well, from his study of insect infestations, the problems associated with humans on the earth. He quotes Nietzche: „The Earth has a skin, and that skin hath diseases. One of these diseases, for example, is called man.”

Human Structure and Shape


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