Sarofim Visiting Artist and Scholar Series

Global Perspectives on Medicine and Health: Part 2 of the International Studies Lecture Series


Free and Open to the Public!


Cutting-Edge Work: The Artistry of Surgical Identities in 19th Century Paris

Mary Hunter

Department of Art History and Communication Studies, McGill University


Tuesday, January 24th

4:30 PM

Olin 110


Nineteenth-century surgical and artistic training were closely tied through their shared focus on the human body.  Both practices required a connection of mental and manual ability and expert hand-eye coordination; drawing, painting, sculpting, and performing surgery were all visual and haptic acts that utilised similar specialised knowledge and skill. Through a series of case studies, this paper will explore the bonds between surgical and artistic identities in late nineteenth-century Paris, and address the historical particularities and contradictions of these intertwined masculinities. By examining portraits of surgeons, as well as other surgical paintings and performances, I will consider how artworks not only helped create and conserve the identities of surgeons but also helped stage artistic personas as ‘cutting edge’. Through an analysis of the surgical works of nineteenth-century artists, such as Henri Gervex and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, as well as contemporary artists like Damien Hirst, I will argue that surgically-themed artworks often invoke a sense of vulnerability, violence and/or contrivance that undermines the masculine identities such images aim to construct.


Sponsored by the Art & Art History Department, International Studies Program, and Representing Gender Paideia Cluster.