Healing after war – 9 November 2020
The setting of this painting is the cloister of a French abbey, which has been become the location of a hospital to care for those wounded in the Great War. The picture is a diptych, care and compassion, personified by women, on the left, conflict and military personified by men on the right.
On the left a row of beds runs into the distance. Only one patient can be seen, a young man who has taken off his uniform, which is piled at the side of his bed. All the other figures on the left are various kinds of nurses, doctors and carers. On the right soldiers are gathered to assess the progress of the patient. Notice the limited palette in this painting, mostly taupes, and blues and greys. The exception is the use of red, for the beds of the wounded on the left, and the hat and lapels of soldiers on the right. A number of the main subjects look out at us, questioning our thoughts and attitudes. Our eyes might be drawn to the woman doctor in white , who observes us with some weariness, and the soldier on the right, who holds orders and lists in his hands.
The painting, from the Imperial War Museum, is ‘The Scottish Women’s Hospital: In the Cloister of the Abbaye at Royaumont, Dr Frances Ivens Inspects a French Patient’, 1920, by Norah Neilson-Gray, a Scottish artist of the Glasgow School. Norah was commissioned by the Women’s Work Sub-Committee of the Imperial War Museum to produce a painting depicting the work of the female doctors of Dr Elsie Inglis’s pioneering Scottish Women’s Hospitals. She served as an orderly at Royaumont, one of the 10 hospitals run by the organisation, during the War years. Norah Neilson-Gray died at the early age of 49 from an infection she contracted in France.
Jesus said: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
God of peace,
whose Son Jesus Christ proclaimed the kingdom
and restored the broken to wholeness of life:
look with compassion on the anguish of the world,
and by your healing power
make whole both people and nations;
through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Post Communion prayer of Remembrance Sunday
God, our refuge and strength,
bring near the day when wars shall cease
and poverty and pain shall end,
that earth may know the peace of heaven
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Additional Collect of Remembrance Sunday.