Faces of Conflict: Exeter exhibition explores impact of First World War on facial reconstructive surgery and art

Posted on centenarynews.com on 20 March 2015
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An Exhibition in the Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery in Exeter is exploring the development of facial reconstruction surgery in the wake of the First World War and its impact on art.

The First World War heralded innovations in surgical practice and facial reconstruction as men came back from the front with severe facial injuries. The main cause of facial injuries was shrapnel – the twisted metal shards could easily tear through skin and cause horrific wounds.

New Zealander Harold Gillies was the pioneer behind the British Army’s plastic surgery unit, and during the war a special hospital was opened in Sidcup to accommodate the high volume of patients in need of reconstructive surgery.

The collection also explores the men’s reintegration into society and the impact of this new reality on culture and art.

The museum states: “The exhibition features historical artefacts and archives associated with Sir Harold Gillies’ pioneering surgical work at the Queen’s Hospital, Sidcup, which are on loan from the Royal College of Surgeons and the British Association of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons. They are connected to artworks created during and immediately after the First World War (by Wyndham Lewis and George Grosz) and to contemporary work by René Apallec, Eleanor Cook and Paddy Hartley.”

‘Faces of Conflict: The Impact of the First World War on Art and Facial Reconstructive Surgery’ closes on April 5th 2015.

More information about the exhibition and museum can be found here.

Image: Royal Albert Memorial Mseum & Art Gallery

Posted by: Eadaoin Hegarty, Centenary News