Journal of Medical Humanities

, Volume 28, Issue 2, pp 59–80 | Cite as

The Doctor by Luke Fildes: An Icon in Context

  • Y. Michael Barilan


This paper discusses one of the most famous paintings on medical themes: The Doctor by Sir Luke Fildes (Fig. 1), which exemplifies how an ideal type of doctoring is construed from reality and from the views and expectations of both the public and doctors themselves. A close reading of The Doctor elucidates three fundamental conflicts in medicine: the first is between statistical efficiency in accordance with scales of morbidity and mortality and the personal devotion that every sick child or suffering individual wants to receive; the second is between the doctor-dominated market and the patient-dominated market; and the third is between influential and rich doctors (“consultants”) and practitioners of family medicine (GPs).1
Fig. 1

Sir Luke Fildes, “The Doctor”, oil on canvas, 1891. With permission from The Tate Gallery, London


Luke-Fildes The Doctor Art and medicine History of medicine—England 19th cent. Medical Education 



The author wishes to thank Mr. Jamshid Sadeghi from Devon for his kind assistance in procuring copyright permissions for the images.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Meir Hospital and the Department of Behavioral Sciences, Sackler Faculty of MedicineTel Aviv UniversityTel AvivIsrael

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