British Dental Journal 187, 439 (1999)
Published online: 23 October 1999 | doi:10.1038/sj.bdj.4800298a2

Dental Restorations: 
Henry Tonks — The Facial Injury Artist

Vincent H Ward

Dental RestorationsHenry Tonks |[mdash]| The Facial Injury Artist

Modern artist, Henry Tonks was born on April 8, 1862. His centenary in April 1962 prompted 'a correspondent' to write an article entitled 'A Teacher who fought against the Tide' in the British Dental Journal of that period. While the author emphasised the image of Tonks as a schoolmaster over that of the artist, the Army Dental Service had a different appreciation of his talent and quality of work.

Facial Wounds:

In the 1914-1918 war, 15% of those who survived to be evacuated for treatment had received facial injuries. Gunshot wounds of the face are characterised by gross soft tissue damage and shattering of the underlying bones. Frequently there is loss of both bone and overlying soft tissue, which can be extensive and cause great difficulties for repair. Subsequent treatment to restore adequate function and replace missing tissue to improve the appearance was laborious and could take many months.

Sir Harold Gillies and Sir William Kelsey Fry:

The surgeon, Harold Gillies and the dentist, William Kelsey Fry were the key figures in this field. Both successfully treated thousands of personnel injured in the war and developed effective treatment principles and techniques that are still relevant today. A new specialist hospital, the Queen's Hospital Sidcup was opened in 1917.

Henry Tonks

Dental RestorationsHenry Tonks |[mdash]| The Facial Injury Artist

Tonks met Gillies in 1916. He was a qualified surgeon but had switched careers from surgery to art. While at Aldershot and later at Sidcup, he made drawings of hospital scenes and patients during treatment.

Tonks Pastels

Dental RestorationsHenry Tonks |[mdash]| The Facial Injury Artist

A series of 69 pastel drawings of injuries were made as a clear record of injuries, treatment plans and stages of treatment. From the late 1960s they were displayed in the Royal Army Dental Corps Museum in Aldershot, and then at the Royal College of Surgeons of England.

In July 1999, Mrs Stella Mason BA AMA, the Keeper of the College Collections, visited the RADC Museum and handed over to the Director Army Dental Service (above) a summary of the Tonks drawings and the story behind the collection.

The originals can be seen in their true art form at the Royal College of Surgeons of England, Lincolns Inn Field, London.


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