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Art Analysis: The Doctor

1396 words - 6 pages

Commissioned by Henry Tate, and first exhibited in 1981 in the Royal Academy, “The Doctor” painting was instantly popular. Especially in the medical community and for many others “The Doctor” shows an ideal of 19th century medicine, and retains much of its popularity because of this (Kernahan). This image has even appeared on postage stamps in the United States and Britain. It is one of the fifty-seven original pictures in Tate Britain’s new site donated by Henry Tate.
Fildes paints a young boy lying across two chairs, his face illuminated by the glass lamp on the table. The doctor, dressed in a tailored suit, sits beside the makeshift bed looking down at his patient anxiously. The shade of ...view middle of the document...

There was a lot of preparation done for this commission. Fildes did several sketches (six which are preserved in the Tate’s archives), and even replicated a fisherman’s cottage in his studio, after extensive sketches of some in Devon, to allow for experimentation with lighting. However this was also Fildes most quickly done work. He allowed for several models to be used in his painting, although they represent certain individuals from his past. The painting itself is a romanticized version of a tragedy in the artist’s life. Fildes first son Philip died at one year in 1877 of tuberculosis. The Dr. is based off of Dr. Murray according to several sources, who showed intense dedication to Fildes’ son when he was under the doctor’s care. Of the many sketches done, the most detail and focus was represented on the doctor’s face, as Fildes tried to capture the relationship between the boy and the doctor. The parents are shadowed in the background, present but useless when it comes to helping their son. However, their presence is necessary and their grief crucial to the interpretation of the painting. The dawn coming in the window near the parents can also signify what they are going through, as each day brings new hope of their child getting better. Also it can reflect the turmoil they are experiencing as they hope, and get their hope diminished over and over. But their son survived the night, and often the dawn is seen as hopeful, and a new beginning, a second chance, and it’s possible Fildes is trying to change his past by painting it the way it should have been. However Fildes’ primarily forces us look at the relationship between the patient and the doctor. This reminds contemporary doctors of the crucial importance of the relationship between a patient and the doctor and the value of a patient-centered approach to medicine (Kernahan).
Sir Luke Fildes was a well-known Victorian painter of the social realist movement, and is regarded as one of the leaders of the Neo-Venetian art (Edwards). He attended South Kensington Art School, and was influenced by Fredrick Walter and William Thomas (Edwards). Thomas was a very important influence, as he believed in the power of visual imagines to change and impact the public opinion. Fildes was also an associate of the Royal Academy, and a Royal Academician (Edwards). He was a contemporary of Charles Dickens, and provided the illustrations for Dickens' last novel The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Fildes worked on The Graphic newspaper (Edwards). This illustrated weekly magazine, established in 1869, published images of poverty and injustice with the aim of inducing acts of charity and collective social action. Although in his early career Fildes made his name by painting works depicting the plight of the poor, most of his income came from painting portraits for wealthy clientele several members of the royal family (Edwards). The Doctor was painted on commission from the industrialist Sir Henry Tate, for £3000...

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