Mark Gilbert, Henry E. and Jerry, oil on canvas 60 x 42 inches, 1999.

Mark Gilbert: Portraits in Health Care

Exhibition at the International Museum of Surgical Science

June 4, 2020 – August 30, 2020

Due to COVID-19, this exhibition has been postponed to open in June, 2021. Stay tuned for additional updates.

Since the 1990s, Scottish-born, artist and researcher Mark Gilbert has innovated portraiture. Depicting caregivers’ and patients’ stories and experiences of illness and recovery within clinical, studio, and domestic settings, each portrait expresses intimate collaborations between artist and sitter. Gilbert’s methods prioritize values of mutuality, reciprocity, and trust. His artistic processes express the importance of compassionate engagement, a key feature of his arts-based research into portraiture’s clinical, ethical, and aesthetic applications.

Gilbert’s work has radically enriched and expanded traditional conceptions of portraiture. Mark Gilbert: Portraits in Health Care includes work from five major bodies of Gilbert’s 21 years of practice in major health professions programs in the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada. Portraits in Health Care expresses everyday children’s, adults’, and elders’ experiences of giving and receiving a wide range of care. These portraits poignantly illuminate vulnerabilities we all have in common, and our shared individual and community interests in caring and being cared for well. This collection prompts critical clinical, ethical, and aesthetic inquiry into the most interesting, important, and neglected questions about the purposes of health care.

About the Artist:

Dr. Mark Gilbert graduated from Glasgow School of Art in 1991 and his work has been exhibited in galleries and museums in Europe and North America. In 1999, his life and practices changed dramatically when becoming artist-in-residence of The Royal London Hospital in England. Collaborating with maxillofacial surgeon, Professor Iain Hutchison and his patients, Gilbert painted, drew, and photographed patients during illness, surgery, and recovery. This series, Saving Faces, was exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery in London. In a subsequent artist-in-residency at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) in Omaha, Nebraska, US, Gilbert produced another series, Here I am and Nowhere Else: Portraits of Care.

Gilbert’s interdisciplinary investigations expanded during his doctoral work at UNMC with a small cohort of head and neck cancer patients. His and his subjects’ experiences of portraiture in clinic- and studio-based settings generated numerous publications, and Gilbert’s research now also applies portraiture to supporting therapeutic capacity in artist-sitter and patient-clinician relationships. Gilbert’s work embodies the emergence of clinical portraiture as a field and continues to evolve as a burgeoning source of innovation and inquiry at the intersections of ethics, art, health professions education, and medicine.

Since 2015, as a fellow in the Medical Humanities program and research associate member of the Faculty of Medicine at Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia, Canada, Gilbert’s research continues. Currently, he explores relationships among elders with dementia and their partners in care.

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This program is supported by the AMA Journal of Ethics® which is published by the American Medical Association and is free to all because ethics inquiry should be a public good.

Additional support for this program is provided by the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, the University of Nebraska at Omaha College of Communication, Fine Arts and Media, and the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre Foundation in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

This program is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency.


This project is partially supported by a CityArts Grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events.