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Hilary Paynter Age of Enlightenment exhibition opens at Exeter hospital


A striking exhibition of wood engravings by renowned engraver Hilary Paynter is the latest artwork to adorn the corridors at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital.


The ‘Age of Enlightenment’ exhibition, which opened to the public on the 2nd July, explores the subject of age and ageing. The body of work has been commissioned by the Baring Foundation, the Arts Council and Devon Guild of Craftsmen, and can be viewed by patients and visitors on level 2 of the hospital between template B and C.


The exhibition features a humorous series of ageing bikers to illustrate the positives of ageing and also explores the darker side of ageing in prints such as Old School Reunion. The images have been informed by dialogue, interaction and workshops with inter-generational groups run through Daisi, an arts education partnership in Devon and Torbay. It also includes work created by the workshops groups and features work by printmaker, film-maker and photographer Leonie Bradley. 


The exhibition has been organised by Exeter Health Care Arts, an ‘arts for health’ initiative designed to deliver a range of activities to improve the hospital environment, for patients, visitors and staff. Stephen Pettet-Smith, Head of Exeter Health Care Arts, said:


“This superbly observed and crafted show fits very neatly with the Trusts work to support our older patients. Hilary makes wry pictorial comment on the bikers, celebrates four of our fabulous national woman icons and gently reminds us of the fragility of old age. Leonie Bradley cleverly uses the medium to focus on how older people are sometimes seen by those around them. The students also clearly had a great time in the workshops and have come up with some interesting results.”


Art exhibitions in the corridors of the hospital can help add interest for visitors and have direct healthcare benefits for patients too.  Patients preparing or recovering from treatments and procedures are often encouraged to tour the corridors to reduce stress before and to regain mobility as they recover. A visitor to the exhibition commented: “Exhibitions here make such a difference. These pictures really link to what the Devon Garden for dementia patients is about, and to the care on the wards.”


The Age of Enlightenment Exhibition will be on display at the RD&E from the 2nd – 31st July, after which it will continue its tour across the south west.  For full touring details visit

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