Examples of Health Care Art


Cool tones:  Use this colorway in waiting rooms, procedure areas, emergency rooms, and other areas where patients need to be calm, relaxed, and perhaps will be waiting for longer periods of time.


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Warm tones:  Use this colorway in areas where people are moving quickly like lobbies, hallways, cafeterias


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Hallways: Since patients and staff are not contemplating this artwork for any length of time, it is sometimes interesting to approach a hallway “in toto” and have a theme down one side, rather than each picture being selected to stand on its own.  For example, a series of single floral images framed with large double white mats adds color and enhances the wellness environment and provides a clean-look to a busy hall.


Regardless of artwork chosen, pieces in corridors should be large (at least between 26 x 34” and 30 x 40”) to avoid being lost in the space.


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Patient Rooms or other waiting areas:

Static Foregrounds vs. Foreground and background: Look at these two very similar pictures.  Both show a series of reeds in the foreground but the picture on the right has an additional feature – you can see a depth of field in the background because of the presence of the setting sun.  This makes this a better choice as the patient can gaze further “into” the picture and do more imagining about the “scene behind the scene” than they can in the photo on the left hand side.




Open foreground/visual depth background or “traveling within” the picture:  When choosing landscapes, look for imagery where there are paths leading back into the picture.  When viewing, the patient can use their imaginations to “walk into” the art and begin to visualize/fantasize about a story that might take place in that setting – maybe a memory, maybe a wish, but a scene that involves them and draws them in.  Look for pictures that have some sense of place in the far background, like a cottage, boat, beach, or other sign of human community.  The pictures below illustrate this.  To see more, use keyword “path” in our art search area.


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Color vs. black and white:  Although there are many great black and white images out there, and this style has been popular for many years, it isn’t the best choice for hospital or health care settings, because it misses the mark in terms of showing nature at its finest in all its colorful glory.  Take a look at the two examples below of very similar imagery.  Which do you think would create the most pleasant feeling for a patient?


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The four seasons:  Although many of us have pleasant memories of snow-filled adventures, in general winter is not the best choice for nature imagery.  (which of the pictures below would you rather wake up to every morning during your hospital stay?) Spring, summer, and fall all have special charms in terms of color palettes and subject matter.  For the most part, we’d avoid winter, unless it is part of a “four seasons” theme in a hallway, for example.

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ZZ 51397       Autumn                  ZZ 51398 Spring                         ZZ 5199 Summer         ZZ 51400  Winter


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Adding in the human element:    Be careful of scenes which look like they are “missing the person.”  Sometimes benches or chairs or rockers can look lonely and create a depressive mood.  This is particularly true in older populations, where memories may intrude about a absent loved one.  Look instead for pictures with either people in them, or an indication of people, like a hat, gloves, shoes.  Likewise, two people in interactions may be preferable to a solitary person alone in a setting.  Patients may feel that they too are alone and isolated; better to show pleasurable interactions between people.

ZZ 18422  (lonely?)                                            ZZ 42299 (better)                                                        ZZ 42300 (best)

                                       ZZ 31166                                                              ZZ 30287 (better plus interest  in background)

                  ZZ 48940                                       ZZ 48941 (better)

                        ZZ 9199                                                    ZZ9100 (better)

Calming vs Disconcerting Imagery:  It’s such a fine line between a soothing, calming image and one that may upset the patient because it’s just a little “off”.  Compare the imagery below to see what we mean.  Some of these points are particularly pertinent in psychiatric units or detox areas


(why are the heads of the tulips cut off?)

(could that happen to me? )

(this image is confusing, what is it?)

And its diagonal lines are jarring and upsetting.



ZZ 52604  (lovely scene but the reflection may be confusing to some) (cloud is cutting off the mountaintop and it looks like a violent storm)


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The image on the left has no single element pulling all the pieces together; the effect is disjointed with overlapping imagery, little connection between the various collage pieces, and twisted tree trunks that are not soothing to the eye.

The image on the right on the other hand has a central unifying element in the zen rock photo in the middle.  The top left and bottom right photos nicely coordinate with each other and the “empty” space of the water and sky at the top right and bottom left give a bit of breathing room to the viewer.  Much more relaxing and calming.




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The image on the left appears to be a ferocious and somewhat dangerous wave.  While the color is relaxing, the imagery is not and there is no relief – as far as the eye can see, we are up close and personal with that wave.

The image on the right has many of the same elements – the water, the beach, but it also offers us more of a vista, a calmer sea, some different components (clouds, seashell, sand) and would be a much better choice for nature imagery.



Obstretrics/Maternity areas:  While some imagery of babies and children will be appropriate, modulate this with some pictures of women at all stages of life, not just beautiful, young women.  Make it dreamy, romantic, soothing, and dignified. Be sensitive to the various ethnic populations that you serve.  And don’t forget that fathers are parents, too.  Another fun idea is to display photos of mother/baby interactions from the animal kingdom, universally loved and amusing.


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Physical therapy and Rehab Areas:  Art that depicts sports, healthy lifestyles, and challenges/inspiration work best.  And again, have a wide age range shown – most people in these areas are not buff athletes in their twenties, but regular people struggling to get back to normal.




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X-Ray Art:  Several artists have published interesting studies, primarily of flowers, using x-ray photography.  These can be intriguing in x-ray areas such as ultrasound, renal, and mammography rooms. (see “collections” and then X-ray art for additional selections)


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