Here are three examples that illustrate how the images in Artstor can be used to enhance the teaching and learning of medicine and medical history, along with two case studies, one by a medical librarian on the importance of art in medical education and another by the director of education at a university gallery about using digital images in a medical setting.

Pandemics and epidemics

The rapid rise of COVID-19 is a stark reminder that humanity is still dangerously susceptible to infectious diseases. Using Artstor, we explore the impact of pandemics and epidemics throughout history, as well as the ensuing developments in science and public health initiatives.

A procession of flagellants carrying a canopy and a statue of the Virgin Mary through a town. Pieter Tanjé. Etching, with engraving. Credit: Wellcome Collection; CC BY 4.0.

The American Biology Teacher. University of California Press on the behalf of National Association of Biology Teachers.

Epidemics and Society: From the Black Death to the Present. Frank M. Snowden. 2019. Yale University Press.

Thomas Eakins’ medical paintings and clinical fact

The controversial 19th-century painting genre of the operating theater, an arresting hybrid of fine art and the art of medicine, was exemplified by the work of American artist Thomas Eakins. An examination of some of the material details and differences between two of his masterpieces permits us to consider the most important developments in the field of surgery during the period.

Thomas Eakins. The Agnew Clinic. 1889. Image and data provided by University of Georgia Libraries.

A physician wearing a 17th-century plague preventive. Credit Wellcome Collection. CC BY 4.0.

Sidney D. Kirkpatrick. The Revenge of Thomas Eakins. 2006. Yale University Press.

The surprisingly painful origins of modern anesthesia

From the dangerous and highly unpredictable use of Mandrake in Greco-Roman medicine to the litigious commercial introduction of ether in the 19th century, anesthesia has had an ironically excruciating history, one amply recorded by artists through the ages.

Southworth & Hawes, Early Operation Using Ether for Anesthesia, late spring 1847. Image and original data provided by The J. Paul Getty Museum.

Printmaker: Jan Harmensz Muller, The surgeon; Ear surgery…, 1581 – 1628. Image and original data provided by Rijksmuseum:

John Quincy Adams Ward; The Ether Memorial; detail, 1867, Boston, MA. Image and original data provided by Art on File,

Case studies

Enhancing visual acuity in medical education through the arts

Joseph Costello, Medical Librarian, Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine
A medical librarian makes the case for why educators should integrate the humanities in comprehensive medical curricula.

Félix Vallotton, The sick patient (Helene Chatenay), 1892. Image and original data provided by Erich Lessing Culture and Fine Arts Archives/ART RESOURCE, N.Y.

Jean-Baptiste Greuze, Head of a Young Girl in a Bonnet, 1760-68. Image and original data provided by SCALA, Florence/ART RESOURCE, N.Y.,;

Head of Laocoon, c. 100. Foto Reali Archive, National Gallery of Art, Department of Image Collections.

Art at the Bedside: Research on the Healing Potential of the Visual Arts

Susan Dodge-Peters Daiss, McPherson Director of Education, Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester
An educator asks, “What if the energy encountering artwork in a museum could be transported to the bedside? What if the visual arts had the potential to bring more than decoration to medical settings? What if they could bring comfort—deep comfort—and maybe even more?”

Gustav Klimt, Avenue in Schloss Kammer Park, c. 1912. Österreichische Galerie Belvedere. Image and original data provided by Erich Lessing Culture and Fine Arts Archives/ART RESOURCE, N.Y

Childe Hassam. Peach Blossoms-Villiers-le-Bel, ca. 1887-89. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Watanabe Seitei, Pigeons in a Tree, 1868-1912. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art