Plants in paintings: Care of Wounded Soldiers, 1916

Williams, Margaret Lindsay, 1888-1960; Care of Wounded Soldiers at Cardiff Royal Infirmary during the Great War

Credit: Cardiff and Vale University Health Board

Looking at plants in paintings is another way we while away hours, this time with Care of Wounded Soldiers at Cardiff Royal Infirmary during the Great War, painted by Margaret Lindsay Williams in 1916.

The Calla Lily is most prominent, representing resurrection and rebirth, as well as faith and purity.  There is a Parlour Palm (Charmaedorea elegans) on the table in the background – a common plant for the time – and daffodils too, the national flower of Wales.

Williams volunteered to be a war artist but was rejected on the basis she was a woman.  She was well recognised during her life time, painting portraits of politicians and royalty, but is less well known now.

This large work, usually hung at Sandhurst Barracks, was recently on display at the National Museum of Wales for an exhibition marking the centenary of World War One.  Wounded Welsh soldiers injured during the war, including in the Battle of the Somme, were brought into Cardiff by train and taken to Cardiff Royal Infirmary.

The use of plants in hospitals is a tradition that continues today (although with varying success) and is boosted by the growing prominence of biophilic design principles in work places.  Various studies claim improvements in recovery rates, reducing stress and encouraging feelings of wellbeing (see for more).