Of Art & Medicine

5 10 2009

The topic for Pallimed’s edition of Grand Rounds will be the ‘Art of Medicine/Nursing’ which may be interpreted “as you like, kind of like art.”
Pallimed reviews current palliative medicine, hospice, end-of-life research and seems to have a particular interest in Art, as there is a separate tab about Arts: http://arts.pallimed.org/

Is Medicine an Art?

My first cents: Medicine is art as much as homeopathy is science. Homeopathy can be presented as science, but that is something else.

However….. the definition of ART may be ambiguous? I assumed ART is like Wikipedia defined:

Art is the process or product of deliberately arranging elements in a way that appeals to the senses or emotions. It encompasses a diverse range of human activities, creations, and modes of expression, including music, literature, film, sculpture, and paintings. The meaning of art is explored in a branch of philosophy known as aesthetics [I]

But in the Merriam-Webster dictionary definitions of (the noun) art include (II):

- skill acquired by experience, study, or observation, for instance <the art of making friends>.
- a branch of learning:
an occupation requiring knowledge or skill <the art of organ building>

“Art” is derived from the Latin word “Ars”. We all know the Ars Amandi, the art of Love. So, yes, art does mean skill here.

And surely Medicine is an Art, if we mean Art in the sense of skill, not (i.m.o.) in the sense of personal creativity and creations.

Geneeskunde or Geneeskunst?

The Dutch use several words for medicine.

  • “Medicijnen” is used for the study.
  • For the profession (and study) they use: Geneeskunde, where genees=’heal‘ and kunde = ‘skill’
  • But there is also a word Geneeskunst, and that can be best translated as the “art of healing” which comes closes to meaning I.

There is inaugurational speech devoted to “Geneeskunde or Geneeskunst”, where Geneeskunst can almost interpreted as a more holistic approach to medicine. In the book Medicine and Law book (H. Nijs, 2005) it is highlightened that even the law uses these terms inconsistently (see Google Books).

In my opinion medicine is geneeskunde, it is a skill.

Medicine in Art,

There are lot of examples of “Medicine in Art”. A famous example is the “Anatomy Lesson” a painting of Rembrandt van Rijn (of Nicolaes Tulp) (1632). It embellishes the homepage of our hospital, the Academic Medical Center (AMC) in Amsterdam.

Our hospital has many works of art, and many expositions. See here for the collections (Dutch). The expositions in our library aren’t even mentioned here.

Art in Medicine

Art is a way to express oneself. For patients, art is an excellent medium to fight their illness or cope with it. At the very least it can be a distraction or a consolation. When hospitalized for breast cancer surgery my mother made me a glazed bonbonnière and I cherish it (normally she wouldn’t have the patience).

There are many forms of art suitable for patients: writing, poetry, music, singing, handcraft, painting etc.

At our library, clinical librarian Heleen Dyserinck organizes regular exhibitions by people (often staff) from the AMC. There may be  paintings, sculptures or photo’s of  people, objects or nature, but also of medical subjects.

Currently Renate Beatrice has an exposition in our library. Her paintings are grouped in several corners. Near my room are paintings of 4 girls, 3 of which are shown below. When I first saw the pictures, they frightened me. I didn’t like them. These are not -so to say- pictures that you hang in your living room.

Later I understood why I found these pictures sinister. The girls try to laugh, but they look unhealthy and sad: it is as if they have the death in their eyes.

Stil later I learned that Renate had a metastatic Wilms’ tumor at the age of 4. She had to spend a lot of time in the hospital and here the doctors Voute † and  Kraker were her herous. Renate is cured, has 3 children, and is an artist. A lot of her pictures are cheerful.  Renate held this exhibition for a special occasion: in honor of the retirement of dr Kraker.

She says:  I don’t paint children in hospitals, because I pity them. no, I paint them because I know them by heart: for years I’ve been one myself. (freely translated from her website)

2-10-2009 18-15-54 schilderijen

inaugurational speech
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4 responses

5 10 2009
Twitter Trackbacks for Of Art and Medicine « Laika’s MedLibLog [laikaspoetnik.wordpress.com] on Topsy.com

[...] Of Art and Medicine « Laika’s MedLibLog laikaspoetnik.wordpress.com/2009/10/05/of-art-and-medicine – view page – cached The topic for Pallimed’s edition of Grand Rounds will be the ‘Art of Medicine/Nursing’ which may be interpreted “as you like, kind of like art.” Pallimed reviews current palliative… (Read more)The topic for Pallimed’s edition of Grand Rounds will be the ‘Art of Medicine/Nursing’ which may be interpreted “as you like, kind of like art.” Pallimed reviews current palliative medicine, hospice, end-of-life research and seems to have a particular interest in Art, as there is a separate tab about Arts: http://arts.pallimed.org/ (Read less) — From the page [...]

5 10 2009
Wichor Bramer

“Geneeskunde of Geneeskunst” is not a thesis is it? it’s an an inaugurational speech.

5 10 2009
laikaspoetnik

That is one of the disadvantages of blogging during midnight. Changed it.

Glad you seem to read my blog ;)

7 10 2009
Derek McCrea

There is a large movement I have been invited to, a job, where we help autistic children and adults art. I have been considering it as art to help them and when I retire from my current job it is an opton.

On another note, there are some really great artists out there who represent medical art. It has been pretty popular since the 1990s and coming back once again.

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