Edvard Munch and The Spanish Flu

Self Portrait, Spanish Influenza
Mr. Cake (cakeordeathsite) has graciously agreed to share another of his wonderful art posts with me. In reading about the flu epidemic, I learned that the artist, Edvard Munch, was a victim. This was once again a nugget of information perfectly suited to his expertise. 

At beginning of 1919, the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch (see Madonna) who painted one of the most famous paintings of all time, 1893’s The Scream, became seriously ill with the Spanish Influenza that had already claimed the lives of millions across the world.

Munch painted hundreds of self-portraits throughout his career, most notable are Self-Portrait with Burning Cigarette from 1895

Self Portrait With a Burning Cigarette
and 1903’s startling Self-Portrait in Hell.

Self Portrait In Hell
Munch’s art which encompassed Symbolism and paved the way for Expressionism, brought a new and unprecedented focus on subjectivity and psychological states, naturally found raw material in the unflinching and dramatic presentation of the diseased and tormented self.

Self-Portrait, Spanish Influenza, featured at the top, though of a later period, is no exception in its neurotic intensity. The jarring colours are suggestive of sickness and trauma and Munch’s sallow mask-like face seems to be staring straight at death.

Munch would survive the Spanish Influenza, dying in 1944 at the age of 80. His paintings and prints retain an evocative urgency in their depiction of the universal states of anguish, illness, sexual anxiety and dissolution of the body.


36 thoughts on “Edvard Munch and The Spanish Flu

      1. I think that absinthe may be higher in alcohol than most drinks. You’re right, although it contains a psychoactive ingredient in Thujone, it’s not present in high enough concentrations to cause hallucinations.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It does pack a punch at around 140 proof. Is thujone a byproduct of the wormwood? I was always under the impression it got its bad rep from the wormwood… I do enjoy my absinthe! How are you liking yours?

        Liked by 1 person

      3. If you’re using an artificial sweetener, maybe try stevia. It’s natural and has a more herbal background. I’m pretty sure Lula came up with a couple absinthe cocktails the week we covered it. Maybe that’s the way to go.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Thank you for the invite Meg. As regarding absinthe, the modern variant is usually produced in the Czech Republic minus the wormwood. The only place to get it like back in the day is in Barcelona. Absinthe was made by Pernod Rickard, Pernod is the original recipe, again minus the wormwood and a few other ingredients. As to the effect on Munch I think his nature, background and childhood, plus that famous Scandinavian angst shaped him before his absinthe days.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s my pleasure. Interesting about the absinthe… The distillery in Philadelphia is making an absinthe supposedly true to its origins. I’ll have to check my bottle. Besides that brand vieux carre, the only other one available in the Fascist Liquor Store is a French brand called Grande Absinthe.

      Liked by 1 person

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