T02326 THE PARAPLEGIC 1970–1
Inscribed ‘C. Rogers’ top left
Oil on hardboard, 19 1/8 × 19 (48.6 × 48.3)
Presented by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest 1978
Prov: Purchased by the Chantrey Trustees from the artist through Fischer Fine Art 1978
Exh: Claude Rogers Paintings and Drawings 1927–1973, Whitechapel Art Gallery, April 1973, Birmingham City Art Gallery, May–June 1973, Reading Museum and Art Gallery, June–July 1973, Southampton City Art Gallery, August–September 1973, Bradford City Art Gallery, September–October 1973, Mappin Art Gallery, Sheffield, November 1973 (73, repr.); Claude Rogers Recent Paintings, Fischer Fine Art, January–February 1978 (3); RA, May–September 1979 (15)
Lit: Andrew Forge, catalogue introduction Claude Rogers Paintings and Drawings 1927–1973, (op. cit., n.p.)
Repr: The Connoisseur, CLXXXIII 1973, p.157; RA Illustrated, 1979, p.2
The woman being supported by two nurses in this painting is the artist's wife, the painter Elsie Few who died in December 1980. Following a stroke, in March 1970, she was admitted to the National Temperance Hospital, Hampstead Road, London, where she stayed for nearly three months. She believed that this hospital may have been chosen because it is a branch of University College Hospital and Claude Rogers was a fellow of University College.
While in The National Temperance Hospital, Mrs Rogers was under the care of Dr P.J.D.Heaf who wrote (letter 15 December 1980) that T02326 shows one end of Ward 2 in the Insull Wing; a ward consisting of single rooms each opening off one side of a corridor.
In an earlier letter (2 December 1980) Dr Heaf said that he had tried to trace some of the nurses who might have been working on the ward at that time but that they had all left University College Hospital by now. The three he had contacted had been unable to identify those in T02326. He pointed out that as the National Temperance Hospital is part of University College Hospital, all staff are interchangeable.
The artist visited his wife frequently during her stay in hospital and, shortly before she died, she told the compiler that she remembered that he made a great many drawings during these visits, including a series of preliminary sketches for T02326. Mrs Rogers had in her possession two pencil drawings showing her in a hospital bed, one dated 7 April 1970, and a further drawing (undated) of the hospital ward taken from the angle at which it appears in ‘The Paraplegic’, but was unable to trace the whereabouts of the other drawings, although she thought it unlikely that her husband would have destroyed them. Professor Bruce Laughton who wrote the catalogue foreword for the exhibition at Fischer Fine Art in 1978 told the compiler that shortly after Claude Rogers' death, Mrs Rogers gave a number of his drawings to his friends and it could be that these included studies for T02326. As no record was kept of the people to whom the drawings went, it would be difficult to trace their current locations.
Dr Igor Anrep, a neighbour of the Rogers' in Highgate, in whose house the artist sometimes worked during his wife's illness, thinks that while he made drawings in situ, Rogers did not start painting ‘The Paraplegic’ until some time after his wife was discharged from hospital. Dr Anrep remembers that the artist obtained nurses uniforms so that he could recreate the hospital scene using models, and believes that T02326 was painted in the studio which Rogers then had in Tasker Road, Hampstead. Bruce Laughton recollects that when he visited the artist's studio in December 1977, shortly before the exhibition at Fischer's, he saw a nurse's uniform hanging there.
From the 1950's onwards Claude Rogers made a number of paintings of hospital scenes, often as a result of time he himself spent in hospital (e.g. ‘The Patient Opposite’ 1952, Tate Gallery N06217) but ‘The Paraplegic’ is unusual in that during the early 'seventies he was chiefly occupied with landscapes and a series of aircraft pictures.
Mrs Rogers was unable to remember during which month in 1970 T02326 was started but wrote (letter 20 October 1980) that the artist thought of it as one of his best pictures.
The Tate Gallery 1978-80: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1981