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About this collection

photograph of WB Stewart 1941William Branks Stewart was a medical artist for Louisiana State University  Medical School - New Orleans from 1933 until his untimely death of a heart attack in 1950. During his time as head of the medical arts department, Mr. Stewart gained national recognition for his work in the field of medical illustration, specifically for his use of an airbrush to produce medical illustrations. A 1946 article from the New Orleans Times-Picayune offers this description:

 

For 13 years Mr. Stewart has been recording in picture form the details of surgical operations, disease processes and bone fractures for the local medical school. These illustrative art works are used for museum demonstrations, in textbooks, in medical journals and as teaching aids for class work of medical students.  Mr. Stewart not only paints but also draws and makes plaster molds. He takes photographs through microscopes and down such complicated devices as the bronchoscope-which is used to see inside a person's windpipe, bronchial tubes and lungs. When a surgeon suddenly finds something at an operation which he wishes to record or publish, a rush call is made for drawings or photographs. Sometimes a patient presents a rare condition at one of the clinics and Mr. Stewart is called over immediately. Some weeks he attends as many as five operations. Requests for him are frequently made by surgeons with new techniques that they want recorded. At the medical school, Mr. Stewart has four rooms full of mysterious gadgets which, to the uninitiated eye of the layman, appear like a series of Rube Goldberg contraptions.

 

A native of Airdrie, Scotland, Mr. Stewart studied art at Glasgow School of Art before moving to America in 1925 to take a job at Northwestern University dental school. In 1933 he moved to New Orleans to work for LSU Medical School. In addition, he painted landscapes as a hobby. A member of the New Orleans Art league, his portraits and landscapes were exhibited in the Art League's annual exhibit, and in 1941 he presented a one-man show at the Delgado Museum (now the New Orleans Museum of Art). Mr. Stewart was a fixture during the early years of LSU Medical School, regularly providing illustrations for The Tiger, the school's student newspaper. A 1934 interview with a Tiger reporter reveals his sense of humor:


Why did I study art? To make big money? Am I making it? To dodge work? Am I dodging it? Have I failed? No, I am doing something I enjoy, among people I enjoy, and in what I consider to be the most interesting city in America. So what the h---.


Mr. Stewart's collection of airbrushed and pen and ink medical art was found in the LSU Health Sciences Center Archives during renovations in 2009, and is now available in digital format for public view.

 

Visitors with more information about Mr. William Branks Stewart or any of these images are encouraged to contact digitalarchives@lsuhsc.edu, so we may further add to the collection.

 
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