The thoughtful and concerned gaze of the well-dressed physician upon the face of his ill, young patient dominates the center of “The Doctor”, an iconic oil painting completed by the British artist Sir Samuel Luke Fildes (1843–1927) in 1891. The scene unfolds in the humble home of this distraught family, with one small area rug and the hanging laundry in a single modest-sized room used for all manner of everyday life.

 

   The parents are nearly lost in the background of this scene, but when found, add a deep layer of despair in the collapsed pose of the wife with her hands in prayer. Her husband empathetically places a hand of comfort on her shoulder, while gazing in the direction of his ill daughter and the respected doctor.

 

   The doctor is observing the ‘crisis’ of the child's illness, the critical stage in pre-antibiotic days when the patient is no longer overwhelmed by infection. The breaking light of dawn on the child's face suggests the crisis is over and that recovery is possible.

 

   The Doctor (1887, The Tate Britain, London) is the enduring image of the Victorian GP and is frequently used to portray the qualities of a good doctor to this day.

The Doctor by Luke Fildes

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