Pope, Robert (Canadian 1956-1992)


Reference Type:
c. 1990
Visiting an ill relative or friend in the hospital is not always easy, and each individual must come to terms with the experience in their own way. In Visitors, Robert Pope seems to have catalogued a number of these approaches. In the left foreground, a blond woman seeks to distract the patient by bringing him a book to read—he reaches out a hand to accept it. Next to her a man is speaking, but to someone across the bed rather than with the man whom he has come to visit. The next man reads the paper, perhaps sitting in quiet companionship with his sick friend. At the foot of the bed an older man and woman—presumably the patient’s parents—stare silently and sadly, possibly feeling despair and helplessness at their inability to assist in saving their child. They and the young man standing behind them form a triangle compositionally, suggesting that he too is part of the patient’s family—perhaps a brother. Continuing on to the right side of the bed, a woman in a pink sweater offers an encouraging smile and food that she has most likely taken the time to prepare herself. Next to her a woman is trying to let the man in the blue shirt know that this is neither the time nor the place to be making some sort of emphatic statement or to be giving the ill man some kind of ultimatum. Behind the group surrounding the bed include children of the age for whom hospital visits can be sad, uncomfortable, and confusing. The artist commented: “….The focus is on the response of the patient’s community which is both positive and negative. The emotions are varied, ranging from concern to indifference, from pessimism to support. …The image is framed by two opposing forces. On the right, the man aggressively gesturing downward can be interpreted as having a negative meaning. The gift of a book from the woman on the left can be seen as a positive gesture and, ultimately, a symbol of hope. There are autobiographical aspects to this painting, as most of the models were drawn from my own family and friends. The mood may be somber, but I feel this is an optimistic work, expressing faith in the continuity of our human community.” (Pope, Robert. Illness and Healing, Images of Cancer. Hantsport, Nova Scotia: Lancelot Press, 1991, p. 64) Notes by Mariann Smith
Critical Illness
Family Relationships
Illness and the Family
Patient Experience
Robert Pope Foundation