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The artists who have depicted events in hospital go back well before Lowry and Hepworth (mentioned in the letter of Nigel Cooke1). Visitors to the Royal Academy’s Vuillard Exhibition earlier this year may have seen The Surgeons, a large painting featuring the surgeon Dr Antonin Gossett and the anaesthetist Dr Bourreau.
Though not unique this is an uncommon subject for great painters. The lavish catalogue informs me that Toulouse Lautrec painted An Operation by Dr Péan at the Hôpital International 1891 and Munch The Operation 1902. Vuillard’s painting is dated 1912–14 but was reworked in 1925 and 1937. A photograph of the scene by Guy Cogeval has different arrangement and shows the face of Dr Jean Berger (back to the artist in the painting).
I was curious about the identity of Dr Bourreau and contacted Professor Jean Lassner. He told me Dr Maurice Bourreau was the first physician anaesthetist in Paris at the end of the 19th century. His son Jacques followed him in working with Professor Gossett and died recently aged 96.