British Dental Association's Museum buys "too good to miss" John Lavery painting for £60,000

By Culture24 Reporter | 31 August 2011
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An image of a painting of a dentist in his surgery
The Dentist is the newest arrival at the British Dental Association’s Museum
© BDA Dental Museum
A view from the dentist’s chair to unsettle the squeamish from the brush of Glasgow Boys painter and war artist Sir John Lavery has been bought by the British Dental Association Museum after curators decided the £60,000 work was “too good to miss”.

The Dentist, a 1929 portrait of gum guru Conrad Ackner treating the artist’s wife, Lady Lavery, will become a key exhibit at the London venue, beginning with a temporary display which will include a scrapbook compiled by Ackner’s staff giving details of dental records belonging to the King of Norway and Marlene Dietrich.

It is thought to be one of the only accurate depictions of an early 20th century surgery in action, featuring an early x-ray machine and headlamp.

“Not only is the work historically significant, it also provides us with an unique insight into the practice of dentistry in the 1920s,” observed the museum’s Jason Finch, who said the work shows Ackner using “the most up-to-date equipment of his time.”

“The opportunity to purchase this unique painting was too good to miss and we are grateful to all our supporters in helping us bring it to its rightful home, particularly in these financially challenging times.”

The painting itself will go on permanent display and is expected to be the highlight of guided tours, and will be featured during events and as part of the museum’s programme for schools.

Having appeared at the Royal Society of Portrait Painters Exhibition, it hung in Ackner’s Welbeck Street surgery alongside a trio of other Lavery paintings for more than 25 years. It was shown at the Royal College of Surgeons before heading to the BDA.

Ackner and Lady Lavery join exalted company under the eye of their painter, who also famously portrayed Winston Churchill and Michael Collins. One of his works, The Gold Turban, recently sold at Sotheby’s for £500,000.

  • Temporary exhibition runs until September 30 2011. Open Tuesday and Thursday 1pm-4pm. Admission free.
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