The Healing Presence of Art A History of Western Art in Hospitals Richard Cork

Publication date:
02 Mar 2012
460 pages: 285 x 245 x 33mm
200 black-&-white illustrations + 240 colour images

Between birth and death, many of life's most critical moments occur in hospital, and they deserve to take place in surroundings that match their significance. In this spirit, from the early Renaissance through to the modern period, artists have made immensely powerful work in hospitals across the western world, enhancing the environments where patients and medical staff strive towards better health.

Distinguished art historian Richard Cork became fascinated by the extraordinary richness of art produced in hospitals, encompassing work by many of the great masters - Piero della Francesca, Rogier van der Weyden, El Greco, William Hogarth, Jacques-Louis David, Vincent van Gogh, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, Fernand Leger, Marc Chagall and Naum Gabo. Cork's brilliant survey discovers the astonishing variety of images found in medical settings, ranging from dramatic confrontations with suffering (Matthias Grunewald at Isenheim) to the most sublime celebrations of heavenly ecstasy (Giovanni Battista Tiepolo in Venice). In the process, he reveals art's prodigious ability to humanize our hospitals, alleviate their clinical bleakness and leave a profound, lasting impression on patients, staff and visitors.

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Read an article by The Healing Presence of Art author Richard Cork on Yale's blog

Richard Cork is an award-winning art critic, author, and curator.

"A comprehensive and magisterial monograph... Cork brilliantly conveys the extent to which hospitals provided a public arena for the display of art, long before the existence of museums."—Charles Saumarez Smith, RA Magazine

"There have been many studies linking aspects of art and illness but Richard Cork’s scholarly and elegant book is the first to show just how closely the two have always been intertwined and just how various have been the responses."—Michael Prodger, Literary Review

"This stunningly illustrated book is just what the doctor ordered."—Michael Kerrigan, The Scotsman

"Cork's prodigiously researched book documents how art in hospitals developed and provides a solid foundation for its future role."—Colin Martin, World Health Design

"A magisterial survey of the subject."—Standpoint

"A lavish and authoritative volume. This is a book that should be required reading for any patron of hospital art in the 21st century."—Christopher Masters, World of Interiors

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