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March 20, 1981

Birmingham museum displays `The Art of Healing'

JAMA. 1981;245(11):1117. doi:10.1001/jama.1981.03310360009002

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An unorthodox "genre"—American medical art—is currently on display at the Birmingham Museum of Art in Birmingham, Ala. The exhibit, which can be viewed until March 29th, explores the interrelationship of medicine, science, and the fine arts. Entitled The Art of Healing: Medicine and Science in American Art, it comprises about 100 paintings, drawings, and sculptures.

Art historian Dr William H. Gerdts, who wrote the catalog, notes that these works constitute an outstanding yet miscellaneous collection; selected for artistic excellence, they defy historical, stylistic, or thematic classification. Chronologically they span 300 years, beginning with one of the oldest known American portraits, an anonymous painting of Dr John Clarke (c 1664). In style, they range from neoclassic portraiture to satirical cartoons. The subjects are as diverse as Allston's Christ Healing the Sick; Catlin's Se-non-ti-yah, Blistered Feet, a medicine man; Roger's Phrenology at the Fancy Ball; and Warhol's Pop Art depiction of a