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Hepworth made a number of paintings based on her close observation of surgical operations. This is one of a series showing different stages of a delicate procedure to correct hearing loss. She was impressed by the 'the extraordinary beauty of purpose and co-ordination' of the surgeons and nurses, and observed how 'that unity... dictated a perfection of concentration, movement and gesture and... induced a spontaneous space composition'. Coinciding with the launch of the National Health Service, the harmony of this work took on a wider symbolism for an artist who believed passionately in the Welfare State.

August 2004