When Labour beat the Conservatives
in the 1945 elections, it promised a sweeping program of social reforms. Radical
changes included the nationalisation of major industries and utilities and the
creation of the modern Welfare State. In 1948, the National Health Service was
founded as a uniform national structure that was funded entirely through
central taxes. However, after the recession of the 1970s the principles of the
Welfare State began to be rethought. Soaring costs, particularly in the NHS, led
to controversial changes such as the introduction of managers in the 1980s and
the creation of independent care trusts in the 1990s. Yet financial pressures
remain and so, 60 years after its formation, the debate about the future of
Britain’s cherished welfare system is still ongoing.
Iain Stewart’s work ‘Tender’ was commissioned by the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in 1999 to celebrate 50 years of the National Health Service in Scotland. It was purchased for the permanent collection and first displayed in the exhibition, Health of the Nation in 2000. ‘Tender’ consists of 12 photographs and shows ‘the magical, trusting relationship between doctor and patient’. For the creation of this work, Stewart worked closely with an Edinburgh GP who allowed him to observe his interaction with patients. The work bears some similarity to Stewart’s earliest documentary project, ‘Picture of Health’ (1988), for which the artist observed his parents, both doctors, at work.
Born in Sheffield in 1967, Iain Stewart studied at Edinburgh College of Art from 1985-90. In 1991 he was Photographer in Residence at Birmingham City Museum and Art Gallery. Also in 1991 he was the resident photographer at the United Gallery, during The World Student Games. 'Scotland on Sunday' voted him 'Young Photographer of the Year' for 1991. Since then his work has appeared in group and solo exhibitions in Britain and the United States, attracting private buyers such as Elton John. Critics have compared his exquisite landscape photographs to Rothko's colour harmonies and to the music of German Romanticism.