On 5th July 1948 the National Health Service was founded. To mark its 70th anniversary Artwork of the Month explores Robert Thomas' bronze bust of Aneurin Bevan.
Born in Tredegar, Wales, Bevan served as MP for Ebbw Vale for 31 years from 1929–1960. After the Second World War, he served as Minister of Health in Atlee's Labour Government, which would mark the most influential chapter of his political career and the establishment of the NHS. In March 1946 Bevan published his National Health Service Bill which became law on 6th November 1946.
The National Health Service Act 1946 transferred control of health care from voluntary and local authorities to a nationalised organisation which ensured universal access for all. On 5th July 1948 the National Health Service was launched to great public enthusiasm - Bevan reported that almost 94% of the population had already enrolled. Bevan was a powerful and influential orator, and fought throughout his long parliamentary career for socialist ideals.
Bevan's contribution to 20th century politics and his role in the creation of the NHS ensured his place in history, and in 1996 the House of Commons Advisory Committee of Works of Art commissioned artist Robert Thomas to create this bronze bust.
Thomas attended Cardiff School of Art and the Royal College of Art, and served as vice-president of the Royal Society of British Sculptors. Thomas became a leading figure of Welsh art in the 1970s and 1980s and his sculptures are found in national collections across Wales, including a full sculpture of Bevan which stands in Cardiff city centre.
The sculpture is on display in Lower Waiting Hall, Palace of Westminster, where it can be seen by members of the public attending committees.
Image: ‘Aneurin Bevan MP’ bronze sculpture by Robert Thomas (WOA S228)