Royal BC Museum

It’s only fitting that the Royal BC Museum in Victoria has acquired a century-old painting of former provincial health officer (PHO) Dr. Henry Esson Young.

After all, Esson Young was “the Dr. Henry of his time,” according to the museum, which notes he led BC’s vaccination efforts against smallpox and tuberculosis in the 1920s. 

One hundred years later, disease and public health measures to limit spread continue to be pressing issues for British Columbians—drawing many parallels between Esson Young and current PHO Dr. Bonnie Henry.

“These two Dr. Henrys share common interests in preventative medicine and faced similar challenges as proponents of vaccination,” said Dr. India Young, curator of art and images at the museum.

Artist Mary Ritter Hamilton completed the portrait of Esson Young sometime between 1910 and 1915, before her departure for Europe to paint WWI battlefield landscapes. The museum credits her as Canada’s first wartime woman artist.

The painting, titled Honorable Dr. Henry Esson Young, was gifted by Helen Belkin Art Gallery and will soon be available online through the BC Archives database.

It may appear in future exhibitions on provincial art history, women artists or healthcare—especially those examining vaccines and pandemics, the museum adds.

Dr. Henry Esson Young (BC Royal Museum)

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