‘Hospital art’ is a phrase to chill the soul. It brings to mind endless lino-floored corridors decorated with determinedly cheery images of fishing ports and landscapes, mimsy animals and bright abstracts, all designed to raise the spirits of the shuffling patients and visitors as they go about the grim routines of illness and wait to contract a dose of MRSA. Hospitals, however, have a long and noble history of commissioning art whose concern was rather more complex than simply cheering the mood of its viewers.
As the distinguished art historian Richard Cork makes clear in this novel and fascinating study of art and illness, hospitals have long been the province of many of the greatest artists in history, from Piero della Francesca and Leonardo da Vinci to Rembrandt and Hogarth. The work that they produced