An artist who works for a hospital charity is appealing for help to uncover the identity of 50 Westminster Hospital nurses from a photograph taken in 1919.
Anouk Mercier, a drawer-in-residence at CW+, the official charity of Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, is creating 50 individual portraits of female nurses from a 1919 photograph in a project titled “50 nurses” to help celebrate International Women’s Day.
“The process of creating each drawing will allow me to ‘spend time’ with the nurses, celebrating their uniqueness”
Ms Mercier discovered the photograph while exploring the archives of Chelsea and Westminster Hospital as part of the charity’s heritage project to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the original Westminster Hospital, which founded in 1719.
The artist said she was struck by the fact that none of the nurses’ names had been recorded, despite this being one of the rare archives documenting women’s contribution to hospital life.
It was also noticed that among the charity’s archives and historic art collection there are numerous painting, drawings and references to significant male figures in the hospital, but few of women.
CW+ said that to address this lack of representation, Ms mercier has taken on the challenge of drawing 50 individual portraits of each woman in this rare photograph.
Ms Mercier said: “The process of creating each drawing will allow me to ‘spend time’ with the nurses, celebrating their uniqueness and questioning potential personalities, histories and roles.
A selection of the portraits will be exhibited as part of the charity’s extensive art collection at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in celebration of International Women’s Day on Friday.
The aim is to invite members of the public and staff to help identify each woman, with the hope that the nurses’ names can one day be listed alongside the photograph.
Trystan Hawkins, director of patient environment for CW+, said: “On International Women’s Day, Anouk’s project will celebrate the huge contribution that women have made throughout our hospital’s history and continue to make today.”
Mr Hawkins highlighted that Ms Mercier’s work at the hospital has allowed her to use drawing as a “tool to gather information and learn about hospital life”.
“Her residency, and particularly the ‘50 Nurses’ project, helps us to reflect on our heritage, and think about how much has changed over the past 300 years,” he said.
anouk mercier nurse no11
Source: Anouk Mercier
anouk mercier nurse no 5
Source: Anouk Mercier