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Anatomy lessons at St Dunstan's. Oil painting by J.H. Lobley, 1919.

Lobley, John Hodgson, 1878-1954.

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Credit: Anatomy lessons at St Dunstan's. Oil painting by J.H. Lobley, 1919. Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0)

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Description

St Dunstan's was a villa in Regent's Park built by Decimus Burton for the 3rd Marquess of Hertford, whose collecting started what became the Wallace Collection. In World War I it was used as St. Dunstan's Hostel for Blinded Military Personnel and Sailors. The buildings were demolished and the site was subsequently occupied by Winfield House, built for Barbara Hutton in the 1930s and given by her to the US government to be the residence of the US ambassador The present picture shows the instruction of blinded or sight-impaired men in human anatomy. Lectures in anatomy, physiology and pathology were given to blinded men at St Dunstan's who were trained to become masseurs (Pearson, loc. cit.). Two of them are wearing spectacles, including the second figure from the left, who also has a burned face. The third figure from the left directs his eyes straight ahead of him but holds his hand on the skeleton's left femur, much lower down. The teacher appears to be the woman in uniform and hat who is showing the insertion of the head of the femur into the hip joint. The instruction takes place in one of the canvas buildings erected in wartime on the terrace between the back of the house and the lawn "At the end of the terrace lawn overlooking the great workshops were the rooms where the blinded soldiers attended their lectures on massage ... Our men had to pass the very stiff examinations of the Incorporated Society of Trained Masseurs. They had to acquire a considerable knowledge of anatomy, physiology and pathology, besides gaining the manipulative dexterity that is necessary. ... Here is a little sketch of the scene in the class-rooms ... 'There were ten men in the room, one of the several rooms used for tuition in massage -- ten man and a skeleton, grimly hooked up in a corner, with its long, lean, listless arm stretched out and its knotted fingers resting in the hand of one of the men. ...[quoting another account] 'In a tall narrow cupboard stands the skeleton, one of the finest specimens obtainable, being about six feet in height and perfect in every detail. The joints of this skeleton are so arranged that every form of dislocation can be easily demonstrated by a lecturer, as also can its ordinary movements. ... The course of training may be regarded by many as somewhat lengthy, lasting as it does from a year to eighteen months, or even longer ... but massage is not a simple subject to master. ... First a good working knowledge of the structure and functions of the human body must be acquired. The student begins by tackling the numerous bones which form the framework on which the soft tissues of the body are built up. When he has mastered their names, positions, bony prominences, depressions, surfaces and borders, and the many muscles and ligaments attached to them, he passes on to the study of the joints, the various movements of which they are capable, and the ligamentous bands which keep in place the bones forming them. ..." (Pearson, op. cit., pp. 141-150)

Physical description

1 painting : oil on canvas ; canvas 69 x 78 cm

Lettering

J. Hodgson Lobley St Dunstans 1919

Publications note

Sir Arthur Pearson, Victory over blindness: how it was won by the men of St. Dunstan's and how others may win it, London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1919, chapter VII, pp. 141-157, 'The blind masseur and the poultry farmer'

Reference

Wellcome Library no. 44586i

Creator/production credits

J.H. Lobley was born in Huddersfield, Yorkshire, in 1878 and studied painting at the Royal College of Art, the Slade School, and the Royal Academy Schools, all in London. In World War I he was an official war artist. He contributed to many exhibitions between the wars and had a solo exhibition at the Leger Gallery, London, in 1934. He lived in Bournemouth, Hampshire, and died in 1954 (information from David Buckman, Dictionary of artists in Britain since 1945, Bristol 1998, p. 760)

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