Pioneering World War II plastic surgery drawings to be exhibited for the first time

11th November 2008


On 18 November 2008, an exhibition at the Camberwell Art College opens showcasing 2,500 recently uncovered drawings of artist Dickie Orpen.

Orpen uniquely used her talent in art and passion for medicine in creating pencil drawings that recorded complex operations and pioneering techniques that helped change the face of plastic surgery.

During the Second World War both civilian and military personnel with horrific injuries were treated using plastic and reconstructive surgery at Hill End Hospital St Albans.  A pioneering plastic surgeon, Rainsford Mowlem headed the team that conducted ground-breaking surgery to rectify injuries sustained in combat.

The drawings making up the exhibition “Dickie Orpen, Surgeon’s Artist” were only recently discovered in archived records when the plastic surgery unit at Mount Vernon Hospital was closed last year. The rest were given to the BAPRAS Archive by plastic surgeon and former President of BAPRAS, Mr Magdy Saad who received them from the estate of Mr John Barron who worked with Mowlem at Hill End St Albans during the war. 

The exhibition is a joint initiative by Camberwell College of Art and BAPRAS. The collection of the drawings and the exhibition has been organised by BAPRAS Archivist and retired plastic surgeon Brian Morgan and Jeanne Woodcraft, lecturer in drawing at Camberwell.

Between 18 and 28 November, the exhibition will be housed at Camberwell College of Art, Wilson Road, SE5 8LU. The exhibition will be open to the public between 10am to 4pm on weekdays. The drawings will then be exhibited at the Royal College of Surgeons at Lincoln Inn’s Fields, WC2A 3PE, from 3 December 2008.


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