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Van Gogh can offer the NHS a better logo

In 1988, while sitting in the paediatric X-ray department in Southampton General Hospital, a secretary delivered me an official looking envelope emblazed with the MDU logo.

Like any one else in receipt of such a letter I panicked and tried to remember if there was any dark secret in my professional past which had now come back to haunt me.

Fortunately the news was far better than that and they were informing me that I had, in fact, won a bottle of champagne as a prize for a caption contest which I had entered some months previously.

We had been asked to suggest a caption for the famous portrait by Vincent Van Gogh of his physician Dr Gachet. The artist, famous for his deeply depressive moods, had previously amputated his ear and sent it to a prostitute.

Van Gogh painted two versions of this portrait in 1890 each similarly showing the good doctor leaning his head on his right arm and with a profoundly sorrowful expression on his face.

It is best summed up by his own words in a letter to his brother Theo: “I’ve done the portrait of M. Gachet with a melancholy expression, which might well seem like a grimace to those who see it…Sad but gentle, yet clear and intelligent, that is how many portraits ought to be done…”

Also in a letter to his fellow artist Paul Gauguin he described the doctor’s “sensitive” face as carrying “the heartbroken expression of our time”.

My suggested caption, which had secured the prize, was simply: “Cuts Vincent, don’t talk to me about cuts!”

It is perhaps unsurprising that, after more than a quarter of a century, both my caption and Dr Gachet’s expression remain so apposite!

I would like to suggest that Dr Gachet’s portrait now becomes the logo of the NHS.

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