In Conversation: Repairing the Wounds: Art and Surgery, Then and Now

Past event archive
15 May 2014, 19:00-20:00

Room 20


  • Late Shift||Lecture
Soldier with Facial Wounds by Henry Tonks,
1916–18 © Royal College of Surgeons of England

Author Louisa Young, curator Emma Chambers and maxillofacial surgeon Iain Hutchison examine the work of Sir Harold Gillies and artist Henry Tonks and discuss how the techniques they developed to restore faces severely injured in the First World War have been used in modern day treatment of physical wounds and their psychological impact.

During the War, surgeon turned artist Tonks produced before and after images of Gillies’ patients, portraying not just the physical, but the psychological effects of plastic surgery.  The skills of artist and surgeon combined to restore confidence in men who had been robbed of their  identity by their wounds.

Louisa Young's novel, My Dear I Wanted to Tell You, was chosen by Richard & Judy, Waterstones, BBC Radio 2, shortlisted for the Wellcome Prize, the Galaxy Book of the Year, and the Costa Novel of the Year.  It is a novel about love, war and the birth of modern cosmetic surgery. Young's grandmother worked with Sir Harold Gillies during the War.

Dr Emma Chambers is Curator of Modern British Art at Tate Britain. She curated Henry Tonks: Art and Surgery exhibition at University College London in 2002-3.

Professor Iain Hutchison is a Consultant Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon.  He started the The Facial Surgery Research Foundation - Saving Faces art project ( using Henry Tonks' and Gillies' approach with present day surgical techniques.  Portraits of 30 of these patients were displayed in spring 2002 at the National Portrait Gallery before touring the UK, Europe and the USA.

The will be speaking with Giles Whittell, leader and feature writer for The Times and author.  His most recent books are Spitfire Women of World War II and Bridge of Spies-A True Story of the Cold War.

Series curated by Adrienne Loftus Parkins.

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