The Anatomy Lesson

Connell, Evan

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Annotated by:
Ratzan, Richard M.
  • Date of entry: Feb-18-1997


During an art class on anatomy, an art instructor in an undergraduate curriculum addresses the students on the dedication and vision an artist needs to become a true artist.


Andrev Andraukov is an aging artist and art teacher in a college. He is eccentric and obsessed with his vigil for a student who will "understand what it meant to be an artist, one student, born with the instinct of compassion, who could learn, who would renounce temporal life for the sake of billions yet unborn, just one who cared less for himself than for others."

As his class attempts to draw a female model, Andraukov lectures them, instructs them, initiates them into seeing anatomy as a vehicle to understanding the human being behind the anatomy, the particular human. As in Plato's Symposium, Andraukov as mentor takes them deeper into the particular to see the universal: "He spoke of how Rembrandt painted a young woman looking out an open window and said to them that she did not live three hundred years ago, no, she was more than one young woman, she was all, from the first who had lived on earth to the one yet unborn who would be the final."

Andraukov spends a fair amount of time demonstrating to them how an umbilicus actually looks, how a sternum looks on the model and on paper; why a female vertebral column curves. I found myself wanting to run to an anatomy text, impatient to examine my next patient with this new found mental eye.

Written in 1948, "The Anatomy Lesson" is a gem of a story about seeing--SEEING as artists, and how such artists or writers or sculptors, or, for that matter--the point of the story for health care professionals--doctors or nurses or physical therapists must see if they are to Make It New, as Ezra Pound put it.

This would be a wonderful story to teach, with an anatomist and surgeon in attendance, concomitant with anatomy or to post-graduate students for whom anatomy is essential, e.g., radiology, surgical, physical therapy students, et al.

Primary Source

The Collected Stories of Evan Connell



Place Published

Washington, D.C.