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Death Drawing at Barts Pathology Museum

5 September 2013

So I was sitting on a side chair in Barts Pathology Museum. By the opposite wall a table groaned under blackberry and cream scones, hot drinks and lashings of Bloody Mary. Away to my left, life model Alex B was holding a dramatic pose for sixty artists. Kneeling in front of me, Nikki was once again painting my face in the image of a skull.

It could only be Art Macabre – ingenious creation of Nikki Shaill, aka Raven Rouge.

The venue for this latest ‘Death Drawing’ salon could hardly have been more suitable. The pathology museum at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, London was built in 1879 to house over 5,000 medical specimens, including pathological pots relating to all areas of anatomy and physiology. The natural light from its glass roof is superb for drawing life, still life and death.

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My Art Macabre début had been as Egon the Skeleton at the carny-themed ‘Circus of Skeletons‘ earlier that month. This follow-up event was a shade closer to orthodox life (death) drawing, albeit in a highly unorthodox setting, so I was simply to be Steve the Skeleton this time around – an entirely satisfactory typecasting.

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For the first 25 minutes after arriving, the artists were invited to explore the museum’s extraordinary collection and practise their anatomical drawing with a favourite exhibit. For the real enthusiasts there was almost no limit to the range of body parts on offer in many variations.

When they retook their places in a circle of chairs, Alex B stepped gracefully onto the central platform and disrobed. For a first five-minute pose she planted one leg, pointed her toes with the other, flexed her shoulders and raised a golden skull with a crooked arm. In that whole time, the skull barely wavered a centimetre. Top class modelling.

Changing position for a second five-minute pose she revealed her ‘Anatomical Venus’ painted torso to another section of the artists’ circle. A subsequent ten minute pose provided sufficient time for Nikki to apply my own skeletal face paint.

With thirty seconds to spare, I quickly stripped beneath my dressing gown and made ready to be next on stage. I would be posing alongside a medical skeleton suspended by its skull; a skeleton in life next to a skeleton in death.

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© Art Macabre, Linsay Trerise 2013, all rights reserved www.deathdrawing.com

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© Art Macabre, Linsay Trerise 2013, all rights reserved www.deathdrawing.com

After this fifteen-minute standing pose, Alex B joined me on the platform for a twenty-minute pose – me standing, Alex B seated on a table.

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© Art Macabre, Linsay Trerise 2013, all rights reserved www.deathdrawing.com

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© Art Macabre, Linsay Trerise 2013, all rights reserved www.deathdrawing.com

A short break allowed us to partake of the sumptuous buffet provided. Upon resuming we sat back-to-back on the table for a final forty-minute pose.

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© Art Macabre, Linsay Trerise 2013, all rights reserved www.deathdrawing.com

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© Art Macabre, Linsay Trerise 2013, all rights reserved www.deathdrawing.com

The time seemed to fly by. After taking applause and re-robing, there was a chance to admire some of the artists’ works. I will never cease to marvel at the manifest talent in these groups. I hope my efforts are adequate to give them satisfaction with their art.

Some outstanding examples are provided below.

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© Art Macabre, Linsay Trerise 2013, all rights reserved www.deathdrawing.com

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© Art Macabre, Linsay Trerise 2013, all rights reserved www.deathdrawing.com
Artwork by Robert Jones

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© Art Macabre, Linsay Trerise 2013, all rights reserved www.deathdrawing.com
Artwork by Robert Jones

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