Staff Finds: The Art of Robert Latou Dickinson

By , June 27, 2016
Dickinson Self-Portrait

Dickinson Self-Portrait

Robert Latou Dickinson is perhaps best known as a sex researcher, as well as for his collaborations with Margaret Sanger in promoting contraception and with Abram Belskie in developing anatomical models. However, in addition to being a medical illustrator, Dickinson was also engaged in art outside of the medical field. In a short paper from 1950, read in his absence at a meeting of the New York Physicians Art Club (of which he was president for two years), Dickinson had these words about the intersection of art and medicine:

Drawing or painting is important additional training for any doctor. It sharpens his observation of detail and proportion. Whenever you depict trees or whatever, you are developing speed in facility of eye-record. Then, as you were looking at a standing posture, chest action or the facial expressions that furnish diagnostic clues, you have, by your sketching, sharpened and quickened your powers of observation.

Dickinson maintained a studio in the New York Academy of Medicine building and authored several publications related to his nature sketches, including the New York Walk Book (1923), Palisades Interstate Park (1921) and the Washington Walkbook (circa 1918). Images of Dickinson’s drawings can be found in the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Online Catalog.

Series V of the Robert Latou Dickinson papers contains a subseries of Dickinson’s non-medical artwork. The finding aid for the Dickinson papers can be found here.

For information regarding access to this collection, please contact the Public Services staff.

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