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"The Doctor" by Sir Luke Fildes collection

Call Number: Ms Coll 69

Scope and Contents

The collection includes commercial reproductions of "The Doctor" by Sir Luke Fildes produced between 1891 and 2005. Collection materials include prints, advertisements, publications, stamps, stationery, lantern slides, jigsaw puzzles, a statuette, and a bas-relief plate. The collection also includes photocopies of reproductions of "The Doctor" not present in the collection. Most of the materials in the collection were donated to the Medical Historical library by medical historian Bert Hansen, item descriptions in the finding aid may include identifiers from Hansen's personal collection management datbase.


  • circa 1891 - 2005


Language of Materials

Collection materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright status for collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Materials in this collection are from multiple gifts of Bert Hansen, 2007-2020, and gift of Dr. William Sherman, 2019, in loving memory of Abraham A. Sherman, M.D., N.Y.U. School of Medicine, class of 1930.


Collection materials have been arranged into seven series by format and date: Series I. Prints, circa 1903-1949. Series II. Ephemera, circa 1900-1950. Series III. Publications, 1894-2005. Series IV. Lantern slides, circa 1891-1920. Series V. Puzzles, circa 1930-1960. Series VI. Decorative objects, circa 1955-1980. Series VII. Reference photocopies.


17 Linear Feet (6 boxes + 4 oversize folders)

Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The collection consists of commercial reproductions of Sir Luke Fildes' painting "The Doctor." The painting, completed in 1891, depicts a seated physician attending an ill child in a modest cottage while her anxious parents wait in the background. It has been interpreted as representing the qualities of an ideal physician and has been widely reproduced in multiple formats for decorative and advertising purposes. Items in the collection include prints, advertisements, publications, stamps, stationery, lantern slides, jigsaw puzzles, a statuette, and a bas-relief plate produced between 1891 and 1980. The collection also includes photocopies of objects depicting "The Doctor" not present in the collection.

Biographical / Historical

“The Doctor,” painted by Sir Luke Fildes in 1891, has been a popular and influential image in the history of medicine for more than a century. The painting of a Victorian doctor attending a sick child in a poor workman’s cottage held great appeal for the general public, who responded to the sympathetic portrayal. Members of the medical profession embraced the painting as a depiction of the ideal physician firmly rooted in the humanitarian traditions of medicine and not defined by the pristine clinical coldness of laboratory science which was redefining modern medicine at the end of the 19th century. By 1900, over one million prints of “The Doctor” were sold in the United States alone. In the 20th century, “The Doctor” was utilized in advertising, merchandise, political campaigns, and publishing, making it one of the most recognized images in modern medical history.

In 1933-1934, Petrolagar Laboratories used “The Doctor” for an exhibit in the Hall of Science at the “Century of Progress” Chicago World’s Fair, which was attended by more than 48 million people. The exhibit of a life-sized three-dimensional (“Sculpticolor”) version of a Victorian painting was a marked contrast to the modern laboratory-based exhibitions displayed in the Hall of Science.

Members of the medical profession continued to regard “The Doctor” as a depiction of the ideal family physician well into the 20th century. In 1947 the United States Postal Service issued “The Doctor” postage stamps to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the American Medical Association and the AMA used the image on official stationery.

From 1948-1950 the American Medical Association used “The Doctor” as the centerpiece of a massive lobbying campaign against "socialized medicine" (universal healthcare) in the United States. The image of “The Doctor” with the title “keep politics out of this picture” was ubiquitous in the United States; it was used on roadside billboards, medical convention banners, stickers, accompanying editorials in the press, and on posters and fliers displayed in doctors’ waiting rooms across the country. The AMA distributed over 100 million items bearing the image of “The Doctor” as part of this campaign.

In the second half of the 20th century, “The Doctor” was a popular subject for gift and promotional items produced for physicians. In the 1990s, the painting took on a new significance for the medical profession; it was introduced in medical training programs as a tool for the discussion of the patient-doctor relationship. In the 21st century, “The Doctor” continues to influence the practice of medicine and the study of the history of medicine.

"The Doctor" by Sir Luke Fildes collection
Katherine Isham
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Medical Historical Library, Cushing/Whitney Medical Library Repository

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