overall view of painting

Hahnemann University Hospital (Philadelphia, PA) Lobby; Nine canvas paintings, total size: 48" x 228" x 2"; 2000.

Hahnemann University Hospital and Philadelphia both have long and impressive histories. For Hahnemann, it is a history marked by innovation in the field of medicine and medical education. For Philadelphia, it is the heritage of American freedom.

This painting chronicles the development of the hospital and the city where it was founded and grew to its present position of leadership. In many ways, the development of the hospital and the city go hand-in-hand.

Hahnemann University, which began as the Homeopathic College of Pennsylvania, was named after Samuel Hahnemann of Erlangen, Germany. In the 1770s, Hahnemann was formulating his ideas for a kind of medical treatment he called Homeopathy. During that same period, leaders of the revolutionary movement were meeting in Philadelphia to forge their ideas of freedom for this nation. This parallel is reflected in the second panel of the painting which presents an image of Hahnemann blended with historic images of Philadelphia.

As Philadelphia grew, welcoming change and diversity, so too did the hospital. As the first successful homeopathic school of medicine in the world, and the last in this country, the school and hospital eventually merged into the mainstream of medicine during the late 1800s. In 1884, the Homeopathic College of Pennsylvania became the Hahnemann Medical College and Hospital of Philadelphia, named in honor of Samuel Hahnemann.

The painting uses nine panels divided into three main groups to convey the stories of Hahnemann University Hospital and Philadelphia. The brightly colored images of the human head, lungs and hand that form the ends and middle of this work (panels 1, 5 & 9) represent the modern, nuclear age of medicine.

Two large panels (3 & 7), in tones of blue and white, reflect the sterile, yet busy environment of today’s modern hospital. Nurses, physicians and surgeons carry out their day-to-day duties of caring for patients using the latest medical technology.

Alternating panels (2, 4, 6, & 8) present detailed images from Philadelphia’s past paralleled with scenes of significant events in the history of the hospital. The city‘s historic monuments are captured on these panels: the Liberty bell, Flag House where Betsy Ross sewed the first American flag, the statue of Philadelphia founder William Penn which graces the ornate City Hall. Also included are the art museum and several significant public art statues and sculptures: the City of Brotherly Love statue and Claus Oldenburg’s large “Clothespin” sculpture.

Interspersed on these panels are several Hahnemann milestones. The Time magazine cover depicted on panel 4 commemorates the work of Dr. Charles Bailey, one of a group of surgeons who pioneered heart surgery before the heart-lung machine came into widespread use. Another Hahnemann notable, Thomas Imes, became the first African American to graduate in 1884. His image on panel 6 symbolizes the individual freedom guaranteed by the Constitution that has played an important role in the development of both the hospital and the city.

Adding to the human element of the painting are scenes depicting activities of the citizens of Philadelphia: sailing and rowing the Schuykill River, and enjoying jazz, ballet and other art forms which home-grown talents have taken to international heights.

Learning about the proud and historic legacy of Hahnemann University Hospital and Philadelphia made painting this work a joy for me. I hope those who view the painting receive the same joy and inspiration.


©2024 Trena McNabb