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Painting unknown worlds

A Correction to this article was published on 10 August 2023

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This paper sets out to discover more about the name ‘Tarrant’ whose ophthalmic paintings have regularly featured in ophthalmic textbooks over the past 50 years. Through a series of telephone calls, I have spoken to Tarrant about his life and work while I research the origins of ophthalmic illustrations charting the story behind this art movement. The paper also explores the eventual decline of retinal painting and the emergence of photography, concluding that due to the continuing advance of technology the ophthalmic photographer may eventually succumb to the same fate as the artist.

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Fig. 1: Three examples of early retinal paintings.
Fig. 2: Comparison showing the difference of artists ability.
Fig. 3: Example of an early painting highlighting the importance of employing artists.
Fig. 4: These two examples were produced in 1886 and highlight the differences in standards of the paintings that were being produced.
Fig. 5: These two examples of Arthur Head’s work show how his style evolved.
Fig. 6: Text showing acknowledgment of artist on inside cover below authors detail.
Fig. 7: This illustration shows Hamblin’s ophthalmic drawing department.
Fig. 8: Adding the Hambins stamp to the paintings gave Theodore Hamblin free advertising in journals and publications.
Fig. 9: The three images at the top show magnified views of the stippling technique used by the miniaturists (Images courtesy of the Wallace Collection).
Fig. 10: Black and white photograph taken in 1950 of Terence Tarrant at the Institute of Ophthalmology.
Fig. 11: Comparison showing subtle differences in two artists painting styles.
Fig. 12: Example of Tarrant’s name on painting.
Fig. 13: Comparison of the first retinal photograph and a retinal painting both from 1886.
Fig. 14: Comparison of examples of retinal detachments.
Fig. 15: This comparison illustrating retinoschisis highlights the limited field of view of a conventional retinal camera.
Fig. 16: Comparison of widefield photograph and painting illustrating a retinal detachment.
Fig. 17: Watercolour paintings of the retina created following Tarrant’s instruction.

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Correspondence to Jonathan Brett.

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The original online version of this article was revised: The name ‘Terence R. Tarrant’ was incorrectly given as ‘Terance R. Tarrant’. Additonally, the following footnote was added: “Whilst writing this article I received the news that Terence Tarrant sadly passed away aged 93 after a short illness. For 46 years Tarrant examined and documented patient’s eyes and the paintings he produced significantly contributed to British Ophthalmology. When studying his artwork one can easily identify if it’s a ‘Tarrant’. His signature and paintings are as recognisable as any long-established artist that features in any national gallery. It has been the honour of this author to share his story, covering the life and career of the last retinal artist”. The original online version of this article was revised due to a retrospective Open Access cancellation.

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Brett, J. Painting unknown worlds. Eye 37, 2886–2895 (2023).

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