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.