The Ward Round (2002)
by Simon Black (1958–2008)
Medium: oil on linen
Dimensions: H 122 x W 153 cm
Commissioned by the Trustees of the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust, this painting represents a scene we are all familiar with. The family at the centre of the composition tells us that we're in the paediatric department and there is an obvious meaning in the relationships between groups of figures in this scene.
Can you see any similarities between the composition of this painting and Gossaert's The Adoration of the Kings which is the first lesson in the History category? The analogy with a Renaissance work hundreds of years earlier isn't as peculiar as it first seems: the late artist Simon Black said, 'The Royal Free Hospital commissions fuse echoes of Poussin, Uccello and Spencer with the frozen moment redolent of the digital twenty-first-century eye.' Certainly, both scenes are balanced around a central family group and there is geometry at play.
While hospital departments like this are instantly recognisable to many of us as serious places, the artist's treatment of the scene is quite cartoonish, isn't it? Is it moving or static? Is the colour palette broad or limited? Although the cubicles suggest separation (a similar device is used in the Gossaert), everyone appears interconnected in terms of being a whole team. How can we relate this to the work of the NHS?