The Medical Archives' arts curator takes us on a tour of the collection
At this month's Medicine Reunion Weekend, there will be seminars and
lectures, dining and dancing, and as ever, there will also be the portraits.
Usually honoring retiring and distinguished faculty and administrators,
portraits are always presented at the reunions and biennial meeting
of the Medical and Surgical Association, the alumni organization for
all those who have trained at Hopkins. This year, six (see box) will
join the notable collection.
In all, 284 portraits done by some of the best portrait painters and
photographers working in 19th and 20th century America fill the collections
of Hopkins Hospital and the Schools of Medicine, Nursing and Public
Health. One of the very oldest in the collection, that of philanthropist
Mary Elizabeth Garrett by John Singer Sargent, was commissioned in 1904
by University trustees. To thank them, she, in turn, commissioned Sargent's
"The Four Doctors."
This masterpiece, which hangs in the West Reading Room of the Welch
Library, is always a favorite stopping point for returning alums. The
large canvas was restored two years ago. "It took six hours just
to take it off the wall," recalls Andy Harrison, whose duty it
is, as fine arts coordinator for the Medical Archives, to maintain and
keep track of not only the portraits but also the sculpture, silver
and other artifacts that make up the medical campus' "museum without
walls." "I like 'The Four Doctors' because it represents the
School of Medicine and also because, with the restoration, I got to
know every little thing about it."
Trained in archives administration, Andy says he's no art historian
or critic. But he is the hands-on overseer, and that is why, when portrait
time rolled around, we could think of no higher authority to opine on
the collections' highlights. Herewith, Andy picks five of his favorites:
Subject: Henry Hurd, Hospital superintendent, 1889-1911
Artist: William Merritt Chase
Where to Find It: Hurd Hall
Andy Opines: This is a lovely painting, a dignified portrait
of Hurd in an academic robe. Painted in 1906, it is one of the earliest
works in the collection. Hurd himself chose the artist, William Merritt
Chase, a painter who dominated the late 19th century American art scene.
Some years ago, it fell off the wall and crashed onto the piano below.
It's been beautifully restored. Whenever I come to Hurd Hall, my eyes
go right to the portrait. I'm always checking to see if it's OK.
Subject: Patrick Walsh, director of the Brady Urological Institute
Artist: Peter Egeli
Where to Find It: Rotunda, Brady Urological Institute
Andy Opines: Peter is from a family of portrait painters based
in southern Maryland, and his works can be found in the board rooms
of government, industry and academia. For Hopkins, he's painted trustees
like Furlong Baldwin and Harvey Meyerhoff and doctors like Vince Gott,
Edward Miller, Charles Cummings and Donald Coffey. I think Peter is
one of the best portrait artists working today. He knows how to capture
the style and character of his subject. Dr. Walsh always has a joke
and a smile. Whenever I look at this portrait, it automatically brings
him to mind.
Subject: John Shaw Billings, architect of Hopkins Hospital,
Civil War surgeon, and director of the National Library of Medicine
and the New York Public Library
Artist: Bradley Stevens, after Cecilia Beaux
Where to Find It: Broadway entrance of Billings Administration
Andy Opines: I really like this one because I'm a Civil War buff.
Billings is wearing his Civil War uniform. (I'm not sure where the red
cape came from.) Stevens has reproduced hundreds of old master paintings
and historical portraits, including the famous Lansdowne portrait of
George Washington for the Smithsonian. This one was commissioned in
1989 to honor the Hospital's centennial. To paint it, Stevens put his
canvas up right in front of the original, which hangs in the National
Library of Medicine and was done in 1895 by Cecilia Beaux, a well-known
artist who painted Adelaide Nutting, nursing superintendent, and Public
Health's William Henry Howell.
Subject: Owsei Temkin, director of Hopkins' Institute of the
History of Medicine, 1958-1968
Artist: Yousuf Karsh
Where to Find It: Welch Medical Library, 3rd floor
Andy Opines: Karsh was a Canadian photographer who photographed
the "who's who" of the 20th century. If you were important,
he took your photo. We have several of his photographs, including one
of Helen Taussig and one of Alfred Blalock. I met Dr. Temkin once, and
this portrait really is a reflection of his personality. He had that
same warmth that shows through in the photograph. With the illustrated
volume, the picture typifies him as a scholar. It's just fantastic.
Subject: Max Broedel, director of Art as Applied to Medicine,
Artist: Thomas Corner
Where to Find It: 1830 Building, 7th floor
Andy Opines: Corner painted all his prominent, Baltimore contemporaries,
including all the Hopkins greats: Johns Hopkins, William Osler, William
Welch, William Halsted and Franklin Mall. This is one of his last works.
He painted it in1938, the year he died. Corner was a realist, and here
Broedel, considered 'the man who put art into medicine,' is shown sitting
at his desk with all the accouterments of his artistic trade.
-Reported by Ann Bennett Swingle