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Outstanding Animal Anatomy Book: Review of An Atlas of Animal Anatomy For Artists by W. Ellenberger

An Atlas of Animal Anatomy Book Review - Ellenberger 1
Cover and Table of Contents for An Atlas Of Animal Anatomy For Artists:

One of the best of most beloved of animal anatomy books for artists

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This is one of my favorite animal anatomy books – it’s the first book I pull off the shelf for any new artwork, either 2D or 3D. The horse sections are wonderful and, coupled with Lanteri’s Modelling and Sculpting Animals book, these are typically the only reference materials I need for most of my artworks, especially large cat and horse artworks.

Check Second Sale or for this book at a discount!

One animal that I love to sculpt that’s not included is the elephant – for that one, I go to my Animal Anatomy for Artists: The Element Of Form by Eliot Goldfinger book. I’m not going to let the fact that the elephant isn’t included in this book knock it down in review points, because the number of animals represented is very good, and the way they’re represented, the detail to the images, etc. is fantastic. Coupled with the fact that there are too many animals for one reference to encompass them all, and I’ve yet to find a true negative with this book!

My art library includes a few artist reference books, but Ellenberger’s An Atlas Of Animal Anatomy for Artists book almost never goes back on the shelf, practically living on my clay table next to my easel!

Four books are my main library of anatomy-focused books, and this post gives an overview with links to reviews for each book if you’d like to see more anatomy reference materials. Lanteri’s Modelling and Sculpting Animals book focuses mainly on sculpture, and is invaluable for 3D artists.

Images from An Atlas Of Animal Anatomy For Artists, Including Some of Stubbs’ Plates:

There’s no fluff to this book – it’s chock full of anatomical structure images (288 to be exact!), including detailed anatomy of the horse hoof, directions of the hair tracts, a comprehensive comparative measurements chart of the full figure of the horse (including head and face), close up of the structures of the eye, and so much more. Even the nerve structure of the horse is included in this book via George Stubbs’ anatomy plates.

One of my favorite horse plates is on page 15, which shows the horse from underneath – an angle you never really see in person, but that’s invaluable to a 3D artist.

he sheer number of animals in this animal anatomy reference is quite large, with smaller animals getting short sections in the back of the book. The Stubbs’ horse anatomy plates are also really interesting to see and study, of which twelve are represented in this book.

The main section of the book includes the horse, dog, lion, cow and bull, and the stag, roe and goat. The appendix section includes Stubbs’ anatomy plates of the horse, small cat drawings from Straus-Durckheim, and several anatomical drawings by Cuvier including the monkey, seal, hare, rat kangaroo, flying squirrel, and bat.

From the back cover:

The animals are shown in three ways: external full views and dozens of details (paws, head, eyes, legs, etc.); beneath-the-skin drawings of musculature and of the positions and insertions of each muscle; and skeleton drawings of the bone structures that support and determine surface contours and configurations. In addition, special cross-sections dissect those portions of the animal – such as the head and limbs – that are most important to the artist.

An Atlas of Animal Anatomy for Artists: Overall Rating

Seriously, I’d give this one a 6 out of 5 if I could, I absolutely adore this book (which is why I have two – the broke down book that I wore out the binding, three hole-punched and put in a binder for 3D / dirty work, and my clean version that doesn’t see the clay table lol).

If I were recommending an animal anatomy book for a representational artist that works in 2D, it would be this one, hands down. For a 3D artist, it’s a toss up between this one and Lanteri, but only because Lanteri’s book has so much information for the sculptor – my actual recommendation in this situation would be to get both, as there’s a lot of animals in this book that aren’t represented in Lanteri’s book.

This book is still being printed, and can usually be found used at Second Sale,, or other second hand book retailers. You can also find tons of newer art books, including animal anatomy drawing books, at Blick Art Materials.

See all book reviews!

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