Saline Infusion: An incident in the British Red Cross Hospital, Arc-en-Barrois, 1915

Catalogue number
  • Art.IWM ART 1918
Art and Popular Design
Production date
Subject period
  • Frame: wood
  • Support: paper
  • Glazing: perspex
  • medium: pastel
  • Frame: Depth 37 mm, Height 989 mm, Width 828 mm
  • Support: Height 679 mm, Width 520 mm
Alternative names
  • object category: drawing
IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUMS, Gift of the artist, 1919

© IWM (Art.IWM ART 1918)

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Object description

image: A patient undergoing a saline infusion on a hospital ward in northern France. The wounded man lies in bed propped up on pillows, his taut upper body and tight neck muscles revealing the pain he experiences as the doctor sitting beside him appears to make an incision in his abdomen. Another doctor stands gently but firmly holding the patient's lower arm. A female nurse watches on, standing beside a saline drip.


Henry Tonks was a surgeon before becoming an established artist and teacher at the Slade School of Art. During the war he served as a RAMC doctor and worked with Sir Harold Gillies, one of the pioneers of plastic surgery. Tonks drew studies of facial injuries before and after surgery, requiring accuracy, attention to detail and emotional understanding. These qualities are evident in 'Saline Infusion', where the pain of the patient is transmitted through the precisely-rendered tautness of his upper body. The delicacy of the pastel medium, which reflects the mute compassion of the medical staff, contrasts with the hard tension in the man's muscles.

Physical description

Framed pastel, with window mount.


H T 1915

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