One of the most difficult skills for the artist to acquire is that of drawing the human figure. Comprehensive knowledge of anatomy is required, and years of study and practice contribute to the creation of realistic-looking drawings.
With the best anatomy books for artists, both novice and seasoned artists can explore the fundamentals of this subject. This list of 10 excellent resources is designed to assist you along your artistic journey.
Each one was chosen after a comprehensive review of available materials. Gorgeous illustrations and photographs along with helpful text make these works highly recommended.
10 Best Human Anatomy Books for Artists:
1. Anatomy for the Artist by Sarah SimbletView at Amazon
Ruskin School of Art anatomist Sarah Simblet authored this book to reveal the human body’s construction. This is considered one of the best books on anatomy for artists by instructors around the globe.
Content in the book combines commissioned photographs using male and female models in addition to examples of contemporary and historical works of art. Dr. Simblet includes her own illustrations to provide instruction regarding mapping the muscle groups and the skeletal frame.
Certain photographs have drawings superimposed on them to demonstrate the close-knit relationship between the exterior flesh and its framework. Whether the artist is a beginner or advanced, they may benefit from studying this fascinating work.
Many artists recommend this book for a better understanding of human anatomy and how to draw it. They appreciate the translucent overlays and the master classes concerning great works of art. However, some say that they would like to see a greater diversity of ages and body types in the models to gain a broader perspective.
Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned artist, you’ll learn a great deal about human anatomy from this book.
- Contains master classes concerning great works of art
- Features translucent overlays
- A fine collection of photographs and paintings
- Some artists wish that more diverse body types had been included in the examples
2. Atlas of Human Anatomy for the Artists by Stephen Rogers PeckView at Amazon
Peck’s Atlas of Human Anatomy is an excellent selection based on its several divisions. Chapters concerning muscles, bones, proportion, equilibrium, surface anatomy, and locomotion all are included to provide the artist with a general overview.
Another thing that makes this one of the best anatomy books for artists is the inclusion of studies on the various types of human physiques.
It even explores how the anatomy changes from birth to old age and contains a section in which facial expressions are analyzed.
Containing a wealth of information, this book was authored by Stephen Rogers Peck.
Throughout his career, he was a medical illustrator, portrait painter, and an artistic anatomy lecturer at the Pratt Institute and the Parsons School of Design.
Because it is so dense with useful information, many artists swear by this book.
Readers appreciate the detailed diagrams and that the information is organized so carefully and logically. Nonetheless, some artists wish that there were more examples of bodies shown in motion.
A classic text that was first published in 1951, many instructors continue to recommend this book to their students.
- Packed with useful information
- Provides separate chapters on the skeleton, muscles, exterior, etc.
- Helpful text and sketches accompany photographs
- The content would be improved with the inclusion of the human body in motion
3. Classic Human Anatomy: The Artist’s Guide to Form, Function, and Movement by Valerie L. WinslowView at Amazon
Called simple and insightful, this book of basic human anatomy for artists was written by accomplished artist Valerie L. Winslow.
Thirty years of teaching and research resulted in this amazing anatomy book that is utilized by seasoned artists everywhere.
With diagrams, approachable text, and drawings, Winslow brings the human body to life.
Winslow breaks up her work into three sections: skeletal form, muscular form, and muscular action. More than 800 illustrations guide the artist to understand human anatomy like never before.
Considered a “must-have” by many artists, fans of the work say that it is unsurpassed in demonstrating how the bones and muscles move and work in concert.
However, it is worth noting that many readers suggest that this is not the best anatomy book for beginners.
The work is directed more toward experienced artists who are looking to really perfect their knowledge of the human form at rest and in motion.
Winslow’s helpful book is an indispensable resource for intermediate or advanced artists.
- Beautiful illustrations
- Shows a wealth of views of the body in motion
- Incredibly detailed diagrams
- Not designed for the beginning artist
4. Figure Drawing: Design and Invention by Michael HamptonView at Amazon
While this book was written for experienced and beginning artists, it really is designed to give the novice a start in the right direction. Surface anatomy is heavily emphasized, and this is an important first step for the developing artist.
The other area of emphasis is on practical usage. Accordingly, artists are able to develop their own working process based on a sensible foundation. This book on anatomy and figure drawing for beginners is a helpful guide that’s filled with simplified instructions.
Whether they are working with a teacher or not, artists will be able to follow along as they produce increasingly lifelike figure drawings. If an artist wants to strengthen their fundamentals, then seasoned professionals often recommend this volume.
Readers appreciate how body parts are broken down into simple shapes and the color coding used on muscle groups. Among the few criticisms is a wish that the book went into more depth with regard to skeletal landmarks.
Hampton’s book is highly recommended for artist who is honing their figure-drawing skills.
- Geared toward beginners
- Excels at showing the body in motion
- Body parts are broken down into simple shapes
- This may not be the best resource for studying the skeletal structure
5. Human Anatomy for Artists: The Elements of Form by Eliot GoldfingerView at Amazon
The work of Eliot Goldfinger who is a lecturer on human anatomy, a scientific model-maker, an illustrator, and a sculptor, this book is one of the finest anatomy drawing books available today.
This book is considered to be an all-inclusive reference when it comes to drawing the human form.
Five years were required to complete the volume, and it’s now considered a standard reference in the field.
Each page is filled with illustrations and photos, capturing numerous views of every bone and muscle, making this a marvelous resource for muscle anatomy for artists.
The drawings are meticulous and the photographs are all carefully lit to ensure the most possible detail. References to CT scans further illuminate the subject matter.
Readers love how every group of muscles or bones is broken down into small sections. Multiple cross-sections of each body part being examined are included.
Nonetheless, some critics would prefer to see a better balance of male and female models. Most of the models used in the volume are men.
Goldfinger’s work is popular in studios around the world, and it is suitable for beginning and advanced artists.
- Beautiful photographs
- Uses CT scans to enhance illustrations
- Includes multiple cross-sections
- Most models are male
6. An Atlas of Anatomy for Artists by Fritz SchiderView at Amazon
First published in 1957, this work remains a highly recommended human anatomy book for artists. Author Fritz Schider examined timeless works from artists like Goya, Michelangelo, Leonardo, Vesalius, and many others.
The photographs of growing children may be especially interesting to some artists. A clear, systematic presentation makes this book easy to follow. This enables the student to progress step-by-step from uncomplicated skeletal figures to drawings of bodies in motion.
Life photographs and anatomical drawings are juxtaposed to provide even more enlightenment. Many artists recommend this book because of its focus on lifelike action poses. The way the book breaks everything down into manageable sections is appreciated by many readers.
Some people dislike that there are far more examples of male models than female models.
Schider’s work is periodically updated to make this classic work even more valuable.
- A tried-and-true artists’ reference
- Comparisons of life photographs and anatomical drawings
- Emphasis on lifelike action poses
- Far more male models are featured than female models
7. Morpho: Anatomy for Artists by Michel LauricellaView at Amazon
A student of the Ecole Nationale Superieure de Beaux-Arts in Paris, Michel Lauricella has taught morphology for more than two decades.
This volume contains the systematic and artistic methods utilized by Lauricella to create the best anatomy book.
Drawing techniques that are highlighted in the book include écorché, in which the musculature beneath the skin is shown, as well as sketches of models in mid-movement.
Covering bone structure and musculature, this is indispensable human anatomy for artists resource for beginning and advanced artists alike. It’s especially valuable because of the multiple perspectives it provides on each body part.
Readers find that this book’s compact size is a plus. Despite its small size, they praise it for being packed with useful information and instruction. Critics say that this volume fails to provide guidance on how to “build flesh” onto the skeletal structure.
Lauricella’s book is a must-have for any artist’s bookshelf.
- Emphasizes numerous drawing techniques
- An excellent resource for muscle and bone structure
- Diverse perspectives are included
- This book is one of a series and does not feature any instruction for building flesh
8. Basic Human Anatomy: An Essential Visual Guide for Artists by Roberto OstiView at Amazon
If you are searching for good anatomy books for artists, then your search may end with Osti’s volume. This comprehensive work draws on the artist’s unique method of teaching anatomy. Despite a heavy focus on physiology, Osti always seems to keep an artistic eye on his work.
Osti relies upon form, shape, and line just as artists like Raphael and da Vinci guide students through the step-by-step process of developing this fundamental artistic skill. The book is designed to be read progressively, with each chapter helping the reader to move from basic shapes to realistic renderings.
Readers appreciate how subsequent chapters build on the earlier chapters, and they praise Osti’s knowledge of human anatomy. However, some artists don’t like Osti’s reliance on precise measurements, preferring to rely on freehand drawing.
Osti’s book is considered a classic that many artists consider a work of art in itself.
- Gorgeous illustrations
- A step-by-step how-to
- An anatomy book that maintains an artistic focus
- Some artists may dislike the focus on precise measurements
9. Anatomy: A Complete Guide for Artists by Joseph SheppardView at Amazon
Joseph Sheppard has created a guidebook for artists who want to draw human figures. If you’re looking for easy anatomy for artists, then this is an accessible option.
Sheppard covers the articulation of the bones and muscles to create skeleton anatomy for artists that both beginning and seasoned professionals will appreciate. The book opens with an explanation of the techniques used to master human proportions.
In the following chapters, Sheppard examines each separate part of the body as well as facial expressions and the human body in total. Each body part is presented from a variety of angles for a comprehensive overview.
The sequential drawings and the varying angle viewpoints win high praise from readers. Nonetheless, some artists mentioned that they would like more detail regarding how the joints move.
Sheppard’s work is a standard text in many classrooms and studios. It definitely deserves a place on the bookshelf of most artists.
- Great explanation of bone and muscle articulation
- The facial expressions section is particularly in-depth
- Each body part is highlighted in a dedicated chapter
- Not much emphasis is placed on the joints
10. Constructive Anatomy by George B. BridgmanView at Amazon
Considered a valuable and detailed study of the human figure, Bridgman’s work was first published in 1973. It remains one of the best anatomy books for artists thanks to the superb sketches and its treatment of complex movements. Artists and sculptors will find this volume equally useful.
Bridgman has a unique perspective with regard to the “vitalizing forces” that are at work in the human form. People who are looking for a book that examines the human body in repose and in motion, as well as each of the various body parts, likely will be delighted. With such comprehensive content, it may be possible for artists to forego hours of research.
Artists say that this book is so popular that it frequently disappears from classrooms and studios. A handful of readers criticize the work for not including any female models. When you decide which product is best for you.
Bridgman’s work is considered a classic in artistic circles, one that no studio should be without.
- Beautiful drawings rendered by a master
- Copious explanatory text
- Emphasis on the “vitalizing forces” in the human body
- No female bodies are examined
Making the Decision
While each of the options presented here is considered to be among the best anatomy books for artists available today, it is worth noting that more than one book may be a necessity in the quest for a comprehensive overview of the subject.
An artist may find that one book is the perfect resource for écorché, but that another book is needed for a different technique. Accordingly, it’s wise to consider adding several or all of these books to your library.