Exhibition | A Taste of One’s Own Medicine

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on June 20, 2022

Now on view at the Royal College of Physicians:

A Taste of One’s Own Medicine: Medical satire at the Royal College of Physicians
Royal College of Physicians, London, 3 May — 2 December 2022

We see countless satirical images in our everyday lives, from commercial advertisements and newspaper cartoons, to magazine covers and humorous internet memes. Graphic satire has saturated all levels of society since it emerged as a skilled artform in the 17th century. It developed into a thriving industry in the 18th century, becoming a powerful tool for expressing political and social opinions.

A Consultation of Physicians, unknown artist (Royal College of Physicians, photography by John Chase).

The enduring appeal of satirical images encompassed the wealthy and poor alike. Reproduced in their tens, hundreds or even thousands, prints could be bought, viewed in shop windows and later newspapers, and put up in public places such as barber shops, billiard rooms, and brothels. Like many public figures, medical professionals such as doctors, apothecaries, and surgeons were targeted by satirists and caricaturists. These artists used public opinion and personal agendas to ridicule, reprimand and malign their subjects and the work they were involved in.

The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) cares for a unique collection of medical satire prints from the mid-18th century to the 1980s, selected and given by doctors and members over its 500-year history. Like all satire, these prints are closely tied to a particular time and place. They responded to contemporary events and were consumed by audiences who understood the circumstances of their creation. Join us as we explore the diverse social, political, and historical contexts in which our satirical prints were produced and seek to decipher the complex narratives they contain.

satire, n. A work of art which uses humour, irony, exaggeration or ridicule to expose and criticise prevailing immorality or foolishness, especially as a form of social or political commentary.

caricature, n. Grotesque or ludicrous representation of persons or things by exaggeration of their most characteristic and striking features.

lampoon, n. A virulent or scurrilous satire upon an individual.

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