Art Gallery visit – Wellcome collection, London

I was looking forward to seeing this collection of medical curiosities from Henry Wellcome’s travels and was not disappointed. There is also an exhibition of ‘Bedlam’ explaining the origins of the word from Bethlem Hospital for the insane. Plenty of odd equipments used and tales of life from those days. I found the photographs of some of the patients very interesting to see their expressions, as well as the explanation that the photos were taken to ‘help’ them.


I couldn’t help but think these people were at the mercy of their carers and the advantage that could have been taken of them.


Henry Hering. Richard Dadd at work. 1857 photograph

I had not heard of the artist Richard Dadd, but have read of his sad history since [1]- noted for his fairy paintings in the Victorian era. He came back from a tour of Europe ‘insane’. stabbed hsi father to death and spent 42 years in a mental hospital where he died. Here he’s painting a circular canvas which is relevent to the this part of the course!


L’homme a la pipe. Van Gogh. 1890

This exhibition also had Van’ Gogh’s only etching. It is of his psychiatrist and he described him as ‘like a brother and very nervous and very bizarre in himself’. I think this comes across in this face – it looks full of character, even when in this thoughtful pose. The fingers look exaggerated, which I remember from his character in the ‘Potato eaters’. The face is a little cartoon like. If it was his only etching, I would guess it was not a method that inspired him?


Morphinomane. Eugene Grasset. 1897

This lithograph must have been shocking in its time. Even in contemporary painting, I don’t come across themes of drug addiction very often. The expression on her face is really tormented, it makes me think why did she do this – the grimness of prostitution is unimaginable. I thought this was a very successful work and one I won’t forget for a long time. Maybe it speaks to me because I’ve worked with substance misusers? I hope theres more understanding now, as I can imagine back then there was a lot of horror with it.

I also saw a print I have seen before of the collections theme.


Andrea Duncan Twenty three pairs. 2002

I thought this was an ingenious idea form her haematology residency of chromosome pairs represented by socks!


There are cabinet after cabinet of interesting medical objects – trephinned skulls, old appliances, amputuation saws, even a guillotine. As I wonder about medical themes in my personal voice, I’m sure this visit will be looked back on as a sourc eof inspiration!



3 thoughts on “Art Gallery visit – Wellcome collection, London

    1. cleveyart Post author

      Yes I couldn’t believe the Van Gogh etching and the chromosome pairs of socks as well as the cool medical stuff – and all free! I’m booked on the Rauschenburg in Jan and Paul Nash in Feb OCA London visits – have you seen them?



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