Dentists in plea for rare oil painting

The BDA’s museum has its sights set on a rare oil painting as its next major acquisition.

The Dentist, painted in 1929 by Sir John Lavery, features dentist Conrad Ackner in situ treating his patient, the artist’s wife Lady Lavery.

The work is significant both in dental and art history terms, being the only known accurate depiction of the early twentieth century dentist in a surgery, and by one of the leading portrait painters of the time.

A rare find, the painting is set in Ackner’s Welbeck Street practice in London and reveals aspects of the clinical environment including an early X-ray machine and headlamp, examples of which are in the museum’s collection.


Using the painting as a centrepiece, plans are in place to mount an exhibition including a scrapbook compiled by Ackner’s staff, which lists the King of Norway and actress Marlene Dietrich amongst his patients.

The first time the two items will be seen together, they will be a highlight on guided tours and be featured during events and as part of the museum’s school programmes.

The BDA is appealing for donations to help acquire the painting so that it can be made a permanent part of its collection.

Currently on loan and on display in the BDA’s Information Centre, it has been independently valued at £60,000.

While funding has already been sourced through the Art Fund, the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund, the BDA and private donations, a shortfall of £9,000 remains before the list price can be met.

Head of BDA museum services, Jason Finch, said: ‘The opportunity to purchase this unique painting is too good to miss and we are desperately close to our target.

‘Not only is the work historically significant in its rarity, it also provides us with an accurate depiction from which the dental profession and public can gain valuable insight into the history of dentistry.

‘We are calling on all interested parties to help us keep this important work at the BDA, permanently, in what we believe is its rightful home.’
To make a donation, or for further information, individuals should contact Jason Finch by phone on 0207 535 5832, or by email at [email protected]

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