Sub-human monstrosities that bear an uncanny likeness to Tonks’ portraits and

Sub-human monstrosities that bear an uncanny likeness to Tonks’ portraits and the case photographs of the same men housed in the Gillies Archives at Queen Mary’s Hospital in Sidcup. Tonks regarded his surgical studies as “rather dreadful subjects for the public view” (n.p.) and complained of “all the more tedious visitors” to the hospital for whom the drawings were one of the “sights” (Hone, 128). In recent years, though, the portraits have found a wider audience. They have been exhibited at the Venice Biennale, Tate Britain, the Science Museum in London, the Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons of England, the Wellcome Collection, University College London, and the National Army Museum in Chelsea. In June 2007 the full series was made digitally available on the website of the Gillies Archives,4 and Pat Barker has spoken of them as a source of inspiration for her new novel Toby’s Room.5 The photographs of Gillies’ patients have entered the public domain alongside the drawings. A selection of complete case files from the Gillies Archives can be viewed online as part of the Wellcome-funded Sci-Art collaboration, Project Fa de, and case photographs have featured in several recent exhibitions including Faces of Battle at the National Army Museum and War and Medicine at the Wellcome.6 Even more than the drawings, the photographs question the limits and propriety of spectatorship. At least with the pastels, one is aware — almost physically — of Tonks’ attentiveness, the qualityM E D I C A L A R C H I V E S A N D D I G I TA L C U L T U R EFIGURE 1 Photograph of Henry Tonks in his room at The Queen’s Hospital, Sidcup, 1917.P H OTO G R AP H I E SFIGURE 2 Horace Nicholls, Repairing War’s Ravages: Renovating facial injuries. Torin 1 web Captain Derwent Wood painting the plate. Imperial War Museum, Q.30.457. ?IWM.M E D I C A L A R C H I V E S A N D D I G I TA L C U L T U R Eof the artist’s touch and the duration of his gaze. His authority, as an artist and surgeon, licenses our own interest. The photographs appear unmediated by any aesthetic concerns: physically and psychologically naked. When I teach this material (usually to history of art students), I tend not to use the most harrowing images of facial injury and reconstructive surgery. Apart from my own discomfort, I worry how my students will respond: with pity? With disgust? Fascination? Should I name the patient, or protect his anonymity? Would he, or his relatives, want the photograph to be shown in a non-medical Larotrectinib solubility context? Is there a happy ending — a redemptive “after surgery” to counterbalance the “before”? These questions might give me pause for thought, but they generally remain unspoken. Here, though, I have chosen one image precisely because it confronts the interested, curious or appalled viewer with the problematic nature of spectatorship and empathy. In an interview with Marq Smith, W.J.T. Mitchell speculated that “the most interesting new questions for visual studies . . . will be located at the frontiers of visuality, the places where seeing approaches a limit” (36). I would suggest that medical images are one such frontier: an ethical borderland in which legal definitions of privacy, personhood and human rights compete with the contemporary politics of witnessing, memory and memorialisation; a space of fantasy where fascination and aversion are found in equal measure. The photograph in question (Figure 3) is a pre-operative record of one of Gillies’ patients, who was also draw.Sub-human monstrosities that bear an uncanny likeness to Tonks’ portraits and the case photographs of the same men housed in the Gillies Archives at Queen Mary’s Hospital in Sidcup. Tonks regarded his surgical studies as “rather dreadful subjects for the public view” (n.p.) and complained of “all the more tedious visitors” to the hospital for whom the drawings were one of the “sights” (Hone, 128). In recent years, though, the portraits have found a wider audience. They have been exhibited at the Venice Biennale, Tate Britain, the Science Museum in London, the Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons of England, the Wellcome Collection, University College London, and the National Army Museum in Chelsea. In June 2007 the full series was made digitally available on the website of the Gillies Archives,4 and Pat Barker has spoken of them as a source of inspiration for her new novel Toby’s Room.5 The photographs of Gillies’ patients have entered the public domain alongside the drawings. A selection of complete case files from the Gillies Archives can be viewed online as part of the Wellcome-funded Sci-Art collaboration, Project Fa de, and case photographs have featured in several recent exhibitions including Faces of Battle at the National Army Museum and War and Medicine at the Wellcome.6 Even more than the drawings, the photographs question the limits and propriety of spectatorship. At least with the pastels, one is aware — almost physically — of Tonks’ attentiveness, the qualityM E D I C A L A R C H I V E S A N D D I G I TA L C U L T U R EFIGURE 1 Photograph of Henry Tonks in his room at The Queen’s Hospital, Sidcup, 1917.P H OTO G R AP H I E SFIGURE 2 Horace Nicholls, Repairing War’s Ravages: Renovating facial injuries. Captain Derwent Wood painting the plate. Imperial War Museum, Q.30.457. ?IWM.M E D I C A L A R C H I V E S A N D D I G I TA L C U L T U R Eof the artist’s touch and the duration of his gaze. His authority, as an artist and surgeon, licenses our own interest. The photographs appear unmediated by any aesthetic concerns: physically and psychologically naked. When I teach this material (usually to history of art students), I tend not to use the most harrowing images of facial injury and reconstructive surgery. Apart from my own discomfort, I worry how my students will respond: with pity? With disgust? Fascination? Should I name the patient, or protect his anonymity? Would he, or his relatives, want the photograph to be shown in a non-medical context? Is there a happy ending — a redemptive “after surgery” to counterbalance the “before”? These questions might give me pause for thought, but they generally remain unspoken. Here, though, I have chosen one image precisely because it confronts the interested, curious or appalled viewer with the problematic nature of spectatorship and empathy. In an interview with Marq Smith, W.J.T. Mitchell speculated that “the most interesting new questions for visual studies . . . will be located at the frontiers of visuality, the places where seeing approaches a limit” (36). I would suggest that medical images are one such frontier: an ethical borderland in which legal definitions of privacy, personhood and human rights compete with the contemporary politics of witnessing, memory and memorialisation; a space of fantasy where fascination and aversion are found in equal measure. The photograph in question (Figure 3) is a pre-operative record of one of Gillies’ patients, who was also draw.

Leave a Reply