Six Women Surgeons: Portraits by Jane Brettle
1st January–31st December 2008
These portraits were commissioned in 2008 to celebrate six surgeons who have played an important role in the work of the College, and in raising the profile of women in surgeryJane Brettle’s art explores the relationship between museum collections and the presence of the ‘body’ in relation to gender, most recently through portraiture. This work was developed in response to sculpture and paintings in the College’s collections.
Within this process she has also asked the question ‘who, historically has been considered a suitable subject to be displayed in these institutions and who is missing?’
In some instances the work begins as a solitary personal exploration; but all her portraits develop as collaboration, or shared experience between the artist and her ‘subjects’.
The use of colour and scale are important elements in her photographs in that they ‘mimic’ the painted portrait in museum collections, making references to history of art and photography. The use of a traditional 5x4 large format camera and portable studio lighting creates a sense of occasion or performance.
In 2017 the College commissioned a portrait of the first Woman President. This joins the other six portraits of eminent women Surgeons who have been Vice President of the College.
These striking images are now on public display at the College of Surgeons building in Lincoln's Inn Fields, London.
Phyllis George (1925-2017) was the first woman to be elected to the Council of the College. She trained at the Royal Free Hospital, gaining her MRCS in 1948 and becoming a Fellow of the College in 1953. She worked at Central Middlesex and Great Ormond Street hospitals before returning to the Royal Free, where she worked with the hepatologist Sheila Sherlock. Phyllis George was elected to the College Council in 1979 and served until 1991. She was Vice-President from 1988 to 1991. She also served as a member of the Court of Examiners of the College.
Her portrait was taken in the Council Room of the College, with Joshua Reynolds’ portrait of John Hunter in the background.
Averil Mansfield CBE
Averil Mansfield was educated and trained in Liverpool. After consultant posts in Liverpool and Hillingdon and Hammersmith Hospitals she moved to St Mary’s Hospital in 1982. In 1993 she became Professor of Vascular Surgery at Imperial College School of Medicine, the first woman to become chairman of a department of surgery in the UK.
Averil Mansfield served on the College Council from 1990 to 2000 and was Vice President from 1998 to 2000. She was the first elected chairman of the Court of Examiners, and was also the initiator of the Women in Surgical Training scheme.
The portrait was taken in front of the statue of John Hunter in the Inner Hall of the former College building.
Valerie Lund CBE
Valerie Lund is a Professor of Rhinology at the UCL Ear Institute and Honorary Consultant Rhinologist at the Royal National Throat Nose and Ear Hospital. She graduated from Charing Cross Medical School in 1977 and became a Fellow of the College in 1982. She was a member of Council from 1994 until 2006, and was Chairman of the College’s Education Board and the Women in Surgical Training Committee.
Valerie Lund was photographed in the operating theatre at the Royal National Throat Nose and Ear Hospital.
Leela Kapila OBE
Leela Kapila graduated from the Christian Medical College in Vellore, India. She came to England in 1962 and trained in surgery under the guidance of Mr A J Walton.
She became a Fellow of the College in 1966 and completed her specialist training at Great Ormond Street Hospital, London. In 1974 she was appointed Consultant Paediatric Surgeon to the Children’s Hospital (later University Hospital) and City Hospital in Nottingham, where she worked until her retirement in 2002. Her special interests were neonatal and oesophageal surgery.
She was elected to the Court of Examiners in 1989 and to Council in 1992, becoming Vice-President in 2003.
Her portrait was taken in the former College’s Wolfson Surgical Skills Centre.
Anne Moore OBE
Anne Moore is a Consultant Neurosurgeon at the Southwest Neurosurgery Centre, Derriford Hospital, Plymouth. She trained at Atkinson Morley’s Hospital, the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery and Great Ormond Street Hospital, London. She spent 11 years as a Consultant at Atkinson Morley’s Hospital before moving to the West Country. Her special interest is in anterior skull base surgery. She was elected to Council in 1996 and served as Vice-President of the College from 2006 to 2008.
Anne Moore was the Council lead for the Hunterian Museum redevelopment from 2003 to 2005. Her portrait shows her in the 2005-2017 Hunterian Museum, holding a stereotactic frame for neurosurgery used at Atkinson Morley’s Hospital.
Linda de Cossart CBE
Linda de Cossart graduated in medicine from the University of Liverpool in 1972 and began training for a surgical career in Merseyside. She became a Fellow of the College in 1978 and gained her ChM from Liverpool on the subject of venous disease. She was appointed as Consultant General Surgeon with an interest in vascular surgery at the Countess of Chester Hospital in 1988. As well as her clinical commitments, she has been closely involved with the changes in surgical education. She was elected to Council in 1999 and became Vice-President in 2008.
Linda de Cossart’s portrait was taken in one of the operating theatres at the Countess of Chester Hospital.
Clare Marx DBE DL
Clare Marx (1954-2022) studied medicine at University College London Medical School, qualifying in 1977. Following a series of training posts in the London area, she completed an arthroplasty fellowship at Brigham and Women's Hospital in 1987 and in 1990 was appointed a Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon at St. Mary's Hospital and St. Charles Hospital London, with a particular interest in early surgical education. In 1993 she moved to Ipswich hospital and a year later became clinical director of the combined A&E, Trauma & Orthopaedics and Rheumatology directorate. In 2013 she became Associate Medical Director at the trust. Clare Marx was elected to the BOA Council and became President in 2008-9. She was elected to RCS Council in 2009, and served as President of the College from July 2014 to July 2017, the first woman to hold the position.
Clare Marx was photographed in the RCSEng President’s office before the redevelopment of the College building.
About the Artist
Jane Brettle was born in Bristol and studied Fine Art at the University of the West of England and Fine Art and Photography at the University of Sunderland. She gained an MA in Photographic Studies from the University of Derby.
She has been the recipient of numerous Awards, Bursaries and Commissions, which include the National Galleries of Scotland, the Royal College of Surgeons, London, Glasgow Year of Architecture and Design, Photo 98 and the Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art. Her work has been exhibited and published nationally and internationally and is in various public and private collections including the Deutsche Bank Art Collection, the Scottish Arts Council, the City Art Centre, Edinburgh, the National Galleries of Scotland, the Ferens Gallery Hull, and The Royal College of Surgeons, London.
As a practicing artist she has worked both in Scotland and England. She was formally an Associate Lecturer at Edinburgh College of Art and Associate Senior Lecturer at Northumbria University where she was involved in developing the Contemporary Photographic Practice Course, teaching both theory and practice at undergraduate and postgraduate level. She is currently an External Examiner and External PhD Supervisor and occasionally writes on Photography.
In 1984 She set up the first Gallery Education Project in Scotland at Stills Gallery, Edinburgh and in 1987 Co-established Portfolio Gallery, Workshop and Magazine in Edinburgh.
She has been a member and board member of several arts organisations and awards and consultancy panels and invited to chair, speak and lecture at numerous academic and art/photography gallery events.
Jane Brettle lives and works in Edinburgh and in the South West of Cornwall.