Category Archives: Visual Art

Paintings in Hospitals


Established in London in 1959, Paintings in Hospitals now works across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. They have developed a diverse art collection of almost 4,000 artworks and, as well as four artwork loan schemes, deliver art engagement projects and creative activities.

Paintings in Hospitals do more than simply put paintings in hospitals. They believe that art has an important role to play in the healing process.

The artwork outside the learning and resource centre in York Hospital and in the corridor downstairs is part of the ‘open store’ for Paintings in Hospitals where people can come to select artworks to loan.   

You can find out more about the organisation >here<

van der Beugel, Jacob. The Pathways of Patients


Steven Oliver – January 2017….

In 2015 I was approached by Jacob van der Beugel in my role as a member of the University of York Epidemiology and Cancer Statistics Group (ECSG) research group. He was interested in an artists in residence scheme being supported by the University and in developing an art work that related to the work.  We focus our research predominantly on ‘Blood Cancers’ a complex mixture of different malignancies including leukaemias, lymphomas, myeloma.
Jacob came to visit our research group on 3-4 occasions across the year and met with researchers, laboratory staff, clinicians and patients.
He had come with an initial metaphor ‘concrete cancer’ which describes the situation where the integrity of concrete chemically deteriorates, potentially exposing structural metal reinforcement and leading to the failure of structures.
The work of the ECSG is broad in scope and we talked about many aspects of this – but the element that caught his imagination was the work we had done on the social patterning of survival for patients with blood cancers. Essentially, the fact that patients from poorer backgrounds have shorter survival – not unusual, but normally made more complex by the fact that poorer people are more likely to develop cancer, which isn’t the case for blood cancers.
We talked a lot about the processes and methods of observational epidemiology in which we seek to accurately represent patterns and distributions of disease in populations and some of the challenges that this poses.

An example of the way we’d normally present such patterns – survival curves for patients with Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia by the Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) for the area they live at diagnosis (1-3 more affluent, 4-5 less affluent)


In the end Jacob represented both these ideas and the methods of epidemiology in a ‘diptych’ of two panels – one representing the ‘world as it is’ and one representing the way in which epidemiologists model observed data. He used concrete as an example of a medium that was associated both with high prestige constructions (when polished) and in cheap functional structures where the finish might be rough. He used rust to represent blood trails – and in a way we often use in teaching – showed the length of life by the length of the path.

In ‘Pathways of Patients II’ the shorter, ‘rougher’ experience of patients from less advantaged areas in our regional population is clearly contrasted with the longer, smoother, tracks of those from less deprived areas. The same pattern is present in ‘Pathways of Patients I’, but (as in a real population) the mixture of exposures initially obscures this. The ‘science’ of epidemiology is in part that restructuring of data to reveal the patterns within it.

You can see more of Jacob’s work at his website – this link will take you to more pictures of the pieces, and also some of the artist’s thoughts about it.


















Hodler, Ferdinand. The Dying Valentine Godé-Darel

We have to take a good hard look at our own attitude toward death and dying before we can sit quietly and without anxiety next to a terminally ill patient.
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

This quote refaces the attached article:
Looking at the Dying Patient: The Ferdinand Hodler Paintings of Valentine Godé-Darel
Pestalozzi BC. Journal of Clinical Oncology, Vol 20, No 7 (April 1), 2002: pp 1948-1950

The Swiss artist Ferdinand Hodler created a sequence of paintings documenting the death of his young lover Valentine. In the words of the article author ‘He created a series of paintings that force the viewer to face the process of dying. It may be helpful to an oncologist to sense his or her reaction to these visual stages of suffering.


Click on the article for more of the sequence of paintings…


Munch, Edvard. The Sick Child


The Sick Child 1907 Edvard Munch 1863-1944 Presented by Thomas Olsen 1939

The Sick Child 1907 Edvard Munch 1863-1944 Presented by Thomas Olsen 1939 [CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0 (Unported)]

The Sick Child touches on the fragility of life. It draws upon Munch’s personal memories, including the trauma of his sister’s death, and visits to dying patients with his doctor father. He described the 1885 painting as ‘a breakthrough in my art’ and made several subsequent versions, of which this is the fourth.

Acquired by the city of Dresden in 1928, it was displayed in the Gemäldegalerie. A decade later, the Nazis declared that Munch’s art was ‘degenerate’ and, in November 1938, all his works in German public collections were collected in Berlin for auction. The Norwegian dealer Harald Holst Halvorsen secured as many as possible, including The Sick Child, and returned them safely to Oslo. Thomas Olsen bought the painting in 1939 and gave it to the Tate. Norway fell to the Germans in 1940. Looking back, Olsen explained that his gift was stimulated by ‘my knowledge, from talks with Munch, that he felt the need of recognition in Western Europe, especially so after the advent of Hitler.’



Kahlo, Frieda. Various

frida kahlo the broken column

The Broken Column 1944
Museo Dolores Olmedo Patino Mexico (Mexico City, Mexico)
© Banco de México and INBAL Mexico, 2004

The Mexican artist Frida Kahlo (1907–1954) brought many influences into her work, from folklore, politics and religion – but a central theme was her own body and the consequences of a terrible traumatic road traffic injury in her youth.

The following link is to a Tate Modern exhibition in 2005 of her work – a good introduction to her work and influences.

Emery, AEH, Emery MLH. Medicine and Art

med_art medart3d

Alan and Marcia Emery present a superb collection of over fifty pieces of art, reflecting the physician’s role in society and the relationship between doctor and patient.

Medicine and Art contains an international selection of artworks, tracing both the history of art and the development of medicine from the Ancient Greeks to the present day, illustrating changing perceptions and applications of medicine, through varied styles and artistic media.

Each work of art is accompanied by a short essay describing the history of the artist and the subject of the artwork. The full colour illustrations and detailed Appendix of further artworks depicting specific medical conditions make this book a unique treasure trove of information for all who share the authors’ love of art, history and medicine. This intriguing book evolved from a series of articles written and researched by Alan Emery about art and medicine in Clinical Medicine, the journal of the Royal College of Physicians of London

Publisher: Royal Society of Medicine Press
Year 2002
ISBN-10: 1853155012

Steven Oliver HYMS: This is a beautiful book, with some brilliant reproductions and a fascinating documentation and perspective on the way doctors and medicine have been represented in art over time. The image below is included in the book from the Wellcome Library collection >link<, it is called ‘Sentence of Death‘ painted in 1908 by John Collier and represents the moment a young man is told by his physician that he is going to die. We can only speculate which terminal illness it was that was being imagined, capable of killing a young Edwardian man: cancer, tuberculosis or perhaps syphilis?

V0016100 A physician telling a patient that he is going to die (?): t

Pharmacopoeia. Cradle to Grave


Cradle to Grave explores our approach to health in Britain today. The piece incorporates a lifetime supply of prescribed drugs knitted into two lengths of fabric, illustrating the medical stories of one woman and one man.

Each length contains over 14,000 drugs, the estimated average prescribed to every person in Britain in their lifetime. This does not include pills we might buy over the counter, which would require about 40,000 pills each.

Cradle to Grave is displayed in the British Museum in the ‘Living and Dying’ exhibition room (The Wellcome Trust Gallery)

There is an excellent website that explores the artwork in more detail and lets you look individually at the ‘man’ and ‘woman’ whose stories are told in the piece.>click here<

Just as an example of some of the patterns represented in the work the two screen grabs below show the pills consumed before the age of 50 – with the impact of contraceptive pill use apparent simply in the longer band for the woman (don’t worry the man soon catches up!)




Currie, K. Three Oncologists (Professor RJ Steele, Professor Sir Alfred Cuschieri and Professor Sir David P Lane of the Department of Surgery and Molecular Oncology, Ninewells Hospital, Dundee)


Ken Currie
Medium Oil on canvas
Size 195.58 x 243.84 cm

The painting is at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh

The men represented in this painting are professors in the Department of Surgery and Molecular Oncology at Ninewells Hospital and Medical School in Dundee. The Head of Department and Professor of Surgery, Sir Alfred Cuschieri, is in the centre. Sir David Lane, Professor of Molecular Oncology is on the right. On the left is surgeon Professor Steele. All three men appear to have been disturbed in the middle of their duties: Professor Steele has blood on his hands and Sir Alfred Cuschieri is holding a medical implement. The luminous quality of the paint makes the figures look almost ghostly, expressing the sense of horror and anxiety associated with cancer.

Hepworth, B. The Hospital Drawings


Barbara Hepworth
Skiagram 1949
Oil and pencil
54.6 x 36.8 cm

Between 1947 and 1949, Barbara Hepworth produced around 80 works of surgeons at work in operating theatres. This period of activity followed the friendship that resulted from the hospitalisation of the daughter of Hepworth (and Ben Nicholson) with the surgeon who treated her at the Elizabeth Orthopaedic Hospital, Exeter: Norman Capener.

You can see a selection of these works here; and there is a good review of the paintings here – including a short video-clip – when they were exhibited together at the Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield

Frutiger, Adrian. “The NHS typeface”

These letters may look familar, this is Frutiger Regular the typeface of the NHS – it is in use in signs, patient leaflets, reports. It was originally designed in 1968 for signage at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris – it is named after its creator the Swiss typeface designer Adrian Frutiger. This is truly form and function in art.

(The colour is, of course, ‘NHS Blue’.)

 Viewer Comments:


If you are into typography you might be interested to know that the ‘HYMS typeface’ is Gill Sans (created 1926) – named after its creator the brilliant (but seriously strange) sculptor and artist Eric Gill.

The typeface for eLearning@HYMS is a relative newcomer – Bauhaus – designed in 1975.

Quinn, Marc. Alison Lapper Pregnant

Here’s how Marc Quinn described the sculpture:

The sculpture is a portrait of Alison Lapper when she was 8½ months pregnant. It is carved out of
one block of white marble and stands 3.55 metres high. At first glance it would seem that there are few if any public sculptures of people with disabilities. However, a closer look reveals that Trafalgar Square is one of the few public spaces where one exists: Nelson on top of his column has lost an arm. I think that Alison’s portrait reactivates this dormant aspect of Trafalgar Square. Most public sculpture, especially in the Trafalgar Square and Whitehall areas, is triumphant male statuary. Nelson’s Column is the epitome of a phallic male monument and I felt that the square needed
some femininity, linking with Boudicca near the Houses of Parliament. Alison’s statue could represent a new model of female heroism.

‘In the past, heroes such as Nelson conquered the outside world. Now it seems to me they conquer their own circumstances and the prejudices of others, and I believe that Alison’s portrait will symbolise this. I’m not physically disabled myself but from working with disabled sitters I realised how hidden different bodies are in public life and media. Her pregnancy also makes this a monument to the possibilities of the future.’

Anonymous. The four forms of the doctor

These four images show an interesting progression in the perception of a doctor – from saint to satan.

  • In the first picture the doctor is heaven sent – there are broken bones to mend, patients in extremis
  • In the second he is hard at work – seen as a ministering angel
  • By picture number three his work is done, his patients restored to health
  • But in picture four we discover how he is seen when the bills are due – the devil incarnate

These pictures, painted in the early 1600’s, are part of the collection of the Museum Boerhaave in Leiden in the Netherlands (the Dutch National Museum of Science and Medicine) – you can visit the website here  (or click on any of the pictures.)

Viewer Comments:

These pictures form the frontispiece of Kenneth Calman’s book ‘Medical Education Past Present and Future’, I thought they were fabulous and a great reminder that the image of ‘the doctor’ is never fixed and not always positive!

Fildes, L. The Doctor

Fildes’s painting was inspired by the death of his son and the professional devotion of Dr Gustavus Murray who treated him. But this work shows the moment when a child shows the first sign of recovery. The redeeming light of dawn is shining on the child.In order to make the picture convincing Fildes constructed a cottage interior in his studio. He began work at dawn each day to catch the exact light conditions. The image of an ordinary doctor’s quiet heroism was a huge success with the late-Victorian public. It can be seen in the Tate Britain Gallery.

The Doctor  exhibited 1891

Oil on canvas
support: 1664 x 2419 mm frame:
2075 x 2875 x 210 mm

Presented by Sir Henry Tate 1894


Viewer Comments:


Steven Oliver HYMS: Sure many doctors would continue to relate to this image and the way in which it captures a clinician intently watching a sick patient, waiting to see ‘which way things will turn’. Of course the treatment in the bottle on the table was probably ineffective – and in reality the artist’s child died – so perhaps it also highlights how much ‘caring’ was valued, even when ‘curing’ was the rare exception.


I was looking for some examples of poetry by UA Fanthorpe (I’ll put some up more when I get round to it) and discovered that one of her books ‘A Watching Brief‘ had ‘The Doctor’ as it’s cover art and the following poem as it first, commissioned by the Tate Gallery. I’m not sure I can keep up with all of the references to art and artists in the middle section, but like the last stanza.

The Doctor

Sir Luke Fildes: The Doctor, Tate Gallery

‘That Jackson, he’s another one.
If he goes on opening windows we’ll all
Die of pneumonia.’

The native obsessions:
Health and the weather. Attendants have
The dogged, grainy look of subjects. Someone,
Surely, is going to paint them?

‘You don’t have a bad heart yet, do you?’

‘Not that I know of.’

‘They can examine you.’

‘But they don’t really know.’

The painters knew.
Gainsborough eyed his lovely, delicate daughters
And rich fat brewers: Turner his hectic skies.
They brooded on death by drowning (Ophelia, in real water);
Cloud without end; storm; storm coming on;
Bright exophthalmic eyes, consumptive colours,
And gorgeous goitred throats; the deluge,
The end of the world, and Adam’s
Appalling worm-wrapped birth.

Such patient watchers
Have eyes for those who watch. The child
Frets in its fever, the parents
Grieve in the background gloom. But the doctor,
Who has done all he can, and knows nothing
Will help or heal, sits raptly, raptly,
As if such absorbed attention were in itself
A virtue. As it is.

Rothko, M. Various

Jonathan Lloyd HYMS: Why did he change from painting an image that might have graced the cover of Vogue…

Underground Fantasy” c1940

…to images of dark colour

Mark Rothko No 4” 1964

…or the

Rothko Chapel Murals?

…and why Cornwall?

Brown, Ford Madox. Work

This a picture which bares and rewards repeated views. Painted over a 13 years period (1852-1865), at one level it is a reflection of Victorian views on the moral value of work. The justification for me in recommending it for this website would be the nature of the work underway here, the ‘noble’ labourers in the centre of the work are digging up a Hampstead pavement for the installation of new sewers. An image of the Public Health revolution underway.

If you want a different sort of entry point to the picture… The infant who regards you very directly (as babies do), and wears a black ribbon probably to symbolise the death of its mother, is modelled on the painter’s son, Arthur, who died during the creation of the work. At this time period the infant mortality rate in England (which is the proportion of babies born alive who die within the first year) was around 150 per 1,000 – its is now 4.5 per 1,000. In 2010 it is still possible to find a number of populations in the world where more than one in a hundred new births will not survive the year:  Angola, Afganistan, Niger, Mali, Somalia, Central African Republic. As the baby’s black ribbon highlights birth was risky for mothers too, at the time of the painting nearly 5 per thousand births would lead to the death of the mother, in the UK now it is around 0.08 per thousand – maternal mortality however remains a global problem with around 350,000 deaths occuring per year in 2008 (approximately the combined population of Hull and Scuthorpe if that helps visualise the figure)

The picture can be seen at Manchester Art Gallery as part of their excellent collection of pre-raphaelite paintings.

Mail, Royal: Medical Breakthroughs

“There are so many British medical breakthroughs to choose from that we really were spoiled for choice. So we began this very Special issue by consulting medical historian Professor Dorothy Porter, who gave us a list of the 20 most significant medical discoveries of the last 20 years, which was then cut down to the six world-changing breakthroughs you see here.
Medical Breakthroughs is available from 16th September 2010 and features penicillin, beta blockers, hip replacements, artificial lens implants, malarial transmission by mosquitos and CAT scanners.”



Hogarth, W. Gin Lane

This print by William Hogarth was produced in 1751, a piece of visual propaganda to support the passage of a piece of legislation to control the supply of gin. (It’s companion piece is ‘Beer Street’ a much more positive image of the impact of ‘honest ale’). In this image we see babies dropped to their death, impaled on a spike by a madman, fed gin to quiet them – all as a consequence of ‘mother’s ruin’. Hogarth is a fascinating artist with a fantastic eye for hypocrisy and cant, his work  contains a wealth of references to health and medicine.

This Day are publish’d, Price 1 s. each.
Two large Prints, design’d and etch’d by Mr. Hogarth called
A Number will be printed in a better Manner for the Curious, at 1s. 6d. each.
And on Thursday following will be publish’d four Prints on the Subject of Cruelty,
Price and Size the same.
N.B. As the Subjects of these Prints are calculated to
reform some reigning Vices peculiar to the lower Class of People, in hopes to render
them of more extensive use, the Author has published them in the cheapest Manner
To be had at the Golden Head in Leicester-Fields, Where may be had all
his other Works.

© Trustees of the British Museum

Caravaggio. Various.

Jonathan Lloyd HYMS: These paintings speak for themselves but I have asked a few questions for you to follow up if you wish.

Carvaggio – The dark knight of the Baroque, a superstar who was as controversial at the turn of the 16th century as he is now. Visit His pictures are as profound and unsettling as anything you will ever see.

2 pictures one young and healthy but with lots of bizarre detail the other older and very much sicker, but why?


Galleria Degli Uffizi, Florence – ITALY


Galleria Borghese, Rome – ITALY

David and Goliath
A shocking image and the severed head is the artist himself but why paint it and for whom?

David with the Head of Goliath

Galleria Borghese, Rome – ITALYese, Rome – ITALY

Still life with a basket of fruit
Boring still life you might say but would you eat the fruit? What sort of person would paint this?

Still Life with a Basket of Fruit

Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, Milan – ITALY

Taking of Christ

I knew that Derek Jarman had made a film about him but I first saw a Caravaggio on a wet Saturday afternoon in Dublin Art Gallery whilst on a weekend break. How did this image of religious conflict and betrayal became a minor player in the Irish troubles in the first half of the 20th century?

Taking of Christ

National Gallery Of Ireland, Dublin – REPUBLIC OF

Carter, Henry Vandyke. “Gray’s Anatomy”

Source: Wellcome Library, London
“189-Surgical Anatomy of the Arteries of the neck. Right side”
Printed Text with Illustration By: Henry Vandyke Carter
From: Anatomy descriptive and surgical
By: Gray, Henry
Published: John W. Parker and Son  London  1858

Full Bibliographic Record Link to Wellcome Library Catalogue

There is a particular reason to highlight the ‘other contributor’ to Henry Gray’s Anatomy, Henry Vandyke Carter was born in Hull (his father was a maritime painter), grew up and died in Scarborough and was educated in Hull before moving to London where he met Gray at St George’s. It was Carter’s clear illustrations that underpinned much of the book’s success.


Viewer Comments:


Again the Scarborough link.  There is a blue plaque on Coulson & Co accountants on Belgrave Crescent, next door to Lawrence House Medical Centre, where Carter lived.