Florence Nightingale Museum acquires Tardieu oils to honour role of nurses in World War One

By Richard Moss | 01 March 2013
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The Florence Nightingale Museum's plans to celebrate the role of nursing during the centenary of the First World War have been boosted by the major acquisition of oil paintings by Victor Tardieu (1870–1950).

a painting of wounded French soldier in a tent
Victor Tardieu, The Volunteer field hospital at Bourbourg near Dunkirk in 1915© Courtesy Florence Nightingale Museum
The series of ten paintings depict the volunteer field hospital at Boubourg, near Dunkirk, in 1915, run by Millicent, Duchess of Sutherland (1867-1955) as part of her Millicent Sutherland Ambulance Car Convoy which she set up in England. The tented Red Cross hospital served injured soldiers from the Western Front.

The paintings were made by Tardieu on the spot during the summer of 1915, capturing the short life of the hospital, which was set up as a temporary respite from the German shelling of Dunkirk and the dangers of the field hospital the Duchess had established in the town’s Café Belle Vue. 

After "the Camp in the Oatfield" (as the hospital became known) closed, the Duchess continued her work with her field ambulance service now called the Millicent Sutherland Ambulance.

Her war work, which continued for the duration of the war, earned her the Croix de Guerre from the French government.

For the First World War Centenary, the Florence Nightingale Museum will use the paintings from March to September 2014 to examine the history of nursing in the Great War and the crucial role played by women volunteers in the battlefields of France and Belgium.

Natasha McEnroe, the Director of the museum, said the acquisition supports the Florence Nightingale Museum's objective of "using its heritage collections to engage the public with the history of nursing."

“The paintings combine a remarkable artistic quality with important documentary record and will form the centrepiece of our work in 2014 acknowledging the role that nurses played in World War One," she added.

The acquisition, along with an associated interpretation and engagement programme, has been funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the V&A Purchase Grant Fund and Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity.

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