A poor painting is better than a good photograph — this was the criterion Pauls Stradiņš (1896–1958) set for graphic materials commissioned for the museum. This collection includes the portraits of prominent doctors, representations of medical technologies and procedures, as well as other artworks in a variety of techniques. The initial core of the collection was composed of the works of Stradiņš’ patient and family friend Jānis Tillbergs (1880–1972) and those of Tillbergs’ students. Their portraits of famous medical workers and researchers throughout the ages were made primarily based on black-and-white reproductions and press photography. For the depiction of medical scenes, the artists relied on illustrations and written historical descriptions. During the Soviet period, the Museum commenced its annual tradition of preparing a “Medicine in Art” exhibit, augmenting its collection with new paintings, sculptures, bookplates, caricatures and other works.
This portrait of Austrian doctor and scientist Clemens von Pirquet (1874–1929) was painted by Jānis Roberts Tillbergs (1880–1972) upon Pauls Stradiņš’ commission in the tradition of academic realism. Pirquet established the notion of allergy, contributed to methods of diagnosing tuberculosis, and studied many other matters in bacteriology and immunology.
Uldis Zemzaris (b. 1928). Portrait of oncologist Rasma Ceplīte. 1967. Graphite on paper, 51 × 42 cm.
In the 1980s, the Museum commissioned new work from many young Latvian painters. Normunds Brasliņš’ (b. 1962) portrait of the Baltic German surgeon Ernst Gustav Benjamin von Bergmann (1836–1907) stands out for its artistic solution, refined composition and colour scheme.