Art in the Hospital Environment

An eminent psychiatrist once asked a subject on TV which of these pictures she liked most: a Rubens, a Picasso or a Constable. Without hesitation she picked the Picasso. She was then hypnotised and asked to choose again from the same three. This time she preferred the Constable. Why? Because it reminded her of a happy childhood spent in the country, whereas in her fully conscious state she had selected the Picasso because she thought that was the educated choice to make.

This simply goes to show that choosing pictures to suit the hospital environment can call for a lot of careful consideration. Not only does the artwork have to complement the building, but it also has to reflect the hospital's image, and of course provide a calm and relaxing environment for both staff and patient.

Psychologically pictures have three main functions.

They reproduce the normality of the home. They break up the often functional shape of the modern hospital and they affect mood both by their subject matter or by colour. The psychologist Lusher found that dark blue has a tranquilising effect, whilst yellow is the colour of optimism. Red, on the other hand is stimulating and exciting.

Whilst there is some scientific basis for the choice of colours, choice of subject can be both subjective and difficult for the non expert, which is where specialist help is needed.