‘Kindred spirits’ invited to Medical Humanities and Bioethics Salon

Gustav Klimt's 'Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I'
Gustav Klimt’s ‘Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I’

The Sirridge Office of Medical Humanities and Bioethics has begun hosting salons modeled on the lively discussions of ideas that took place in Europe in previous centuries. “It’s a gathering of kindred spirits,” said Stuart Munro, M.D., professor and chair of humanities and social sciences.

The most recent Medical Humanities and Bioethics Salon took place Jan. 28 in the Humanities Conference Room. In advance of the event, salon guests were encouraged to read a chapter from the 2012 book The Age of Insight: The Quest to Understand the Unconscious in Art, Mind, and Brain, From Vienna 1900 to the Present by Nobel Prize-winning neuroscientist Eric R. Kandel. The book examines the interactions of the humanities and sciences in Vienna at a time when Sigmund Freud and the painter Gustav Klimt were ascendant.

Klimt, Munro noted, was interested in science. The painter watched cadaver dissections and invited an anatomy professor to teach him and his fellow artists about biology. “Klimt was one of those artists in the salons who would look inside a microscope and see human tissue, with the cells and the nuclei, and he painted them in his paintings,” Munro said.

Bibie Chronwall, dean of the Emeritus College at UMKC, led the conversation at the Jan. 28 salon, which many Sirridge Office of Medical Humanities and Bioethics faculty attended. Carol Stanford, M.D. ’79, associate professor of medicine, prepared for the discussion by reading another recent book with Klimt as a central character, The Lady in Gold: The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt’s Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer. Stanford discussed the book, which describes the legal battle between the Austrian government and a descendent of Bloch-Bauer, who argued the painting was stolen by the Nazis during World War II. The book is the basis of an upcoming feature film, Woman in Gold, starring Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds.

The salons, Munro said, fit with vision of William Sirridge, M.D., and Marjorie Sirridge, M.D., the founding physician-docents who worked to the increase opportunities for students to study humanities and bioethics. Their vision and generosity in establishing the Sirridge Office of Medical Humanities and Bioethics in 1992 has encouraged faculty and students from all disciplines to collaborate in healing patients in a holistic and compassionate manner, he said.

The Medical Humanities and Bioethics Salon is open to all. The next salon is expected to take place in April. For more information, contact Britt Filkins at FilkinsB@umkc.edu.