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from the files
Cells and Tissues
Bart Lutters - Submission 1.jpeg
Inspiration and composition


Who are the individuals behind medical records? Brain changes resulting from neurological conditions can make a person see the world and themselves differently. In ‘Whispers from the files’ Bart created a portrait of a patient who died of a brain tumor. The scattered and forgotten life of this individual is illustrated by patches of different materials in the patient’s face. Bart accomplished this by using the historical patient file and pieces of his drawings in a collage. 

“When you open the files, you encounter pictures of patients - taking photographs before and after was part of the diagnostic process. History may sometimes appear quite abstract, almost like fiction. When you see a picture of someone and you read the file, you realize all these lives that were there - all hidden in the files. It’s touching.” 

‘Whispers from the files’ is built up from four layers. A portrait picture from the medical file, a

marker and fine liner drawing, and an oil pastel painting, all cut up and superimposed on a page of the actual patient record. Like the different views from scientists on the same patient, Bart uses different materials and techniques to form the portrait of the same person. In the background of the portrait, descriptions of tests are written that are still done today, like testing the function of the tongue. Bart has a fascination for the human aspect of science and medicine. “It makes my research come to life. It addresses the human aspect of the work that I do.” 


Bart’s research allows him to have an open mind and look at the bigger picture. “An important lesson from the history of medicine for medical and science students is that what we consider true today, might change over time. It’s important to remain flexible when that happens.” 

The artist

About Bart Lutters 

Bart has a degree from medical school (SUMMA) and worked for a year at the neurosurgery department. In clinical practice, he missed a focus on reflection, which motivated him to start his PhD in the history of Medicine - specifically on the origin of neurosurgery in the Netherlands. In his research, he explores how the field of neurosurgery took shape in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. His sources include old patient files from medical archives. 

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