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.
I had not heard of the artist Richard Dadd, but have read of his sad history since - 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!
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?
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.
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!