The Romantic Disease

Exhibition Outline   Where There's Dust There's Danger?    The Romantic Disease Dress   Rest, Rest and Rest!   Pneumothorax Machine   Blue Henry   Genius Germ at The Picasso Museum   Demon   Theatrum Anatomicum Exhibition   Brighton Fringe Event   Open Lab    Symposium   Catalogue   Biography/Contact   

"The Romantic Disease: An Artistic Investigation of Tuberculosis" is a highly successful solo exhibition by Anna Dumitriu, an ‘open lab’ workshop, and a one day symposium which took place at Watermans in London, UK, funded by The Wellcome Trust between January and March 2014 and which is now touring internationally to the Theatrum Anatomicum at Waag Society, Amsterdam in the Netherlands in June - July 2014, and then to Art Laboratory Berlin in Germany in September - November 2014. A special event and the exhibition of the "Genius Germ" installation took place at The Picasso Museum in Barcelona in June 2014.

The exhibition takes the form of an art/science investigation into mankind’s strange relationship with ‘the Romantic Disease’ Tuberculosis (TB) from early superstitions about the disease, through the development of antibiotics, to the latest research into whole genome sequencing of bacteria. Explore the links above to learn more about the ideas and artworks in the exhibition as well as the events programme. Funded by The Wellcome Trust and supported by the Modernising Medicial Microbiology Project. For more information on the work of Anna Dumitriu see
Rest, Rest and Rest!

Until the discovery of the antibiotic Streptomycin in 1943 there was no real treatment for tuberculosis (TB) and medical treatments were directed towards enhancing the immune systems of sufferers through a regime of regular meals and rest and fresh air. Some of the rest regimes were very extreme, such as artificially collapsing lungs in order to rest them. Calculations were made as to the number of breaths required to perform specific tasks and patients would be confined to bed, sometimes in just one position until they recovered, rebelled or succumbed.

Hospitals, called ‘sanatoria’, for TB patients sprang up, especially in  mountainous areas in the false belief that the thinner air at high altitudes was beneficial to treating TB or warmer climates based on the assumption that avoiding damp cold conditions would help control the disease by avoiding other infections that might further weaken the patient. Removing infectious patients from the wider population was also a benefit of the system.

Many sanatoria sprang up around Europe. Especially popular for the wealthy were those in Switzerland. In the UK, Ventnor on the Isle of Wight became the popular destination of the TB sufferer. The train from London to the town was nicknamed “The Invalid Express” and boarding houses and hotels for patients covered the steep cliff of the famous resort. The massive “Royal National Hospital for Consumption and Diseases of the Chest” with its famous motto above the door “dum spiro spero” (while I breath, I hope) was built there in 1869 and demolished one hundred years later after the advent of antibiotics had rendered it unnecessary.