The Beautiful Brain: The drawings of Santiago Ramón y Cajal

November 3, 2016

Santiago Ramón y Cajal, considered the father of modern neuroscience, was also an exceptional artist. Cajal devoted his life to the study of the structure of the brain, the body’s most complex and mysterious organ. He drew the brain in a way that provided a clarity exceeding that achieved by photographs. He combined scientific and artistic skills to produce drawings with extraordinary scientific and aesthetic qualities. Among his many discoveries, he discerned that the brain was made up of individual nerve cells - neurons. This discovery is one of the basic principles of neuroscience today. Cajal’s drawings are not only landmarks of science, unparalleled for their accuracy, but also of the art of drawing and the exploration of human nature.

This traveling exhibition of Cajal’s original drawings was organized by the Weisman Art Museum in collaboration with Drs. Eric Newman, Alfonso Araque, and Janet Dubinsky, neuroscientists at the University of Minnesota. The exhibit is organized in collaboration with Dr. Ricardo Martinez Murillo, neuroscientist and curator of the Cajal Legacy at the Cajal Institute (CSIC) in Spain. Eighty of Cajal’s drawings, many appearing for the first time in the United States, will be accompanied by a selection of contemporary visualizations of the brain, photographs, historic books, and scientific tools. After the debut at Weisman Art Museum, the exhibition will travel to university galleries and museums, throughout the United States and Canada.

Abrams Books, in collaboration with the Weisman Art Museum, is publishing a book to accompany the exhibition. The book will contain full color reproductions of all 80 of the exhibition drawings, commentary on each of the drawings, and essays on Cajal’s life and scientific contributions, his artistic roots and achievements, and contemporary neuroscience imaging techniques.

Cajal Exhibit Schedule:

Jan 28th - May 21st, 2017
Weisman Art Museum
University of Minnesota
Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA 

Sept 5th - Dec 3rd, 2017 
Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery
University of British Columbia
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada 

Jan 9th - Mar 31st, 2018 
Grey Art Gallery
New York University
New York City, New York, USA 

May 2nd, 2018 - Jan 1st, 2019 
MIT Museum
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA 

Jan 27th - Apr 7th, 2019 
Ackland Art Museum
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA