This drawing was produced by Modernist artist and sculptor Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975) in 1948. Drawn in oil, pencil and green pencil, it depicts three figures. A central surgeon wearing surgical robes and a mask is shown concentrating on their work, holding a scalpel in their left hand. Two other assistants, similarly dressed, are depicted standing on the opposite side of the patient, with a flash of blue coloured sheet visible between them. The drawing is sensitively rendered, with a bright highlighted area in the centre capturing the harsh surgical light needed to complete such delicate work. Signed and dated bottom right, and titled on the verso.

After her daughter Sarah was hospitalised in 1944, Hepworth struck up a close friendship with the surgeon Norman Capener. At his invitation, she was invited to view surgical procedures at the Princess Elizabeth Hospital in Exeter, which led to her producing nearly 80 drawings of operating rooms between 1947 and 1949. She became fascinated by the similarities in craftsmanship between surgeons and artists, particularly the rhythmic movement of hands during medical procedures. This focus can be seen in ‘Trio’ as the hands are highlighted in the centre of the image. In the clinical environment of the operating theatre Hepworth was limited to a sterilised notebook and pen. Only later, in the studio did she make her larger scale drawings.

Her hospital drawings can also be considered in the context of the newly established NHS in 1948. Such a ground-breaking change was passionately supported by artists like Hepworth, who supported broad left-wing ideals which reimagined the fabric of British society after the Second World War. These beliefs are echoed in the altruism she portrays in her images of doctors and nurses.
Accession Loan No.
Collection Class
oil, pencil and green pencil on board
Common Name
Simple Name
Full Name
board height 458 mm; board length 356 mm; frame height 619 mm; frame length 519 mm
Production Person Surname
Production Person Initials
Period Classification
Modern (1945-)
Production Date
Production Year Low
Production Year High
Production Town
Production County
Production Country
United Kingdom: England
Production Area Region
Northern Europe
Production Continent
Family Group

Inscription / Transcription
25/2/48; 25 Barbara Hepworth Trio

    There is 1 comment

    • Claire Donovan
      22 March 2017 | Permalink | Reply to this comment

      We are working – with the University of the Third Age (U3A) – on an exhibition of the history of Poltimore House nursing home and hospital – from 1945 – 1975. We were wondering whether we could borrow this drawing – or probably more suitable a copy or a print from this. It would be great if someone could send an email with your thoughts, and I would be very happy to come and discuss this at RAMM. I am aware that these drawings are on display elsewhere at the moment.

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