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Critical Review

In contrast to the chaotic, explosive character of his canvases, the Anatomy series presents the artist’s obsessive interest in the minutiae and intricate details of the human body in isolation. While the monochromatic simplicity of this series contrasts strongly with the bold use of colour with which his legacy is associated, Anatomy is inexorably linked to the entirety of his catalogue due to the way in which anatomical references are visible in pieces produced throughout his career.

Basquiat was involved in a car accident when he was eight years old, as a result of which he was taken to the hospital with multiple injuries and a broken arm. It was during this period that his mother presented him with a copy of the canonical medical encyclopaedia Gray's Anatomy (1878), which he promptly devoured. During his recuperation, he spent hours poring over the illustrations of the human body contained within the massive tome. The plethora of anatomical depictions of various kinds found in his work, ranging from the anatomical drawings featured in the frenetic collage entitled Jesse (1983) to this series of diagrammatic images showing various parts of the body, was no doubt heavily influenced by his experiences. The collection also demonstrates the influence of Leonardo Da Vinci's annotated manuscripts, which Basquiat owned.