Thursday, 25 March 2010

"The healing power of art"

Dr. Richard Cork, the urbane art historian (for this is he) today celebrates his birthday. This fact emerged whilst he addressed a large audience in Cheltenham last night on the theme of how art can alleviate suffering and humanise hospitals.

Being born on Lady Day, he said, gives depictions of the Annunciation a special place in his heart, as he shared with us a slide of El Greco's exquisite roundel of 1603 in the Capilla mayor del Hospital de la Caridad de Illescas.

But for all the pretty pictures Dr. Cork had brought along - by no means universally first rate reproductions - he only partly established his thesis. What was the real added value of Hogarth's works in Thomas Coram's Foundling Hospital for instance? And how does the rather brutalist Fernand Léger mosaic serve to humanise Saint-Lô's Memorial Hospital precisely?

Still, it would be a sadness if Alistair Darling's proposed £4.35bn cut from the Department of Health (announced in the Budget) meant the end of its funding of Paintings in Hospitals: our Cheltenham General has benefitted from this charity's largesse - enabling it to continue work Caroline and others started two decades or so ago.

Since the excellent Hamish Roberton came as a dentist to Cheltenham some while back, each of my regular (but thankfully infrequent) visits to his room have mostly brought me face to face with a new painting by his talented wife. (She is modest about her work to the extent that I can't insert a link to something of hers on the web.) This afternoon's appointment was cheered enormously by a stunning abstract, which might almost be a celestial vision: the healing power of art was well in evidence at Cambray Dental.

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