Munch, Edvard (Norwegian, 1863-1944)

The Sick Child


Reference Type:
Artwork
Image:
Munch.TheSickChild.jpg
Year:
1907
Notes/Description:
In 1896, Edvard Munch’s sister and best friend Sophie died of tuberculosis at age 15. He remembered her saying that she did not want to die, and pleading with him to help her, which of course he could not. The Sick Child was one of the first themes he exhibited publicly, and Munch returned to it throughout his life, both in painting and graphic work. Paintings of sick children were fashionable in the nineteenth century—but Munch’s are different in style, mood, and expression. The young girl here is Sophie, propped up on a pillow, looking very tired and weak. She turns her head toward the window and sunlight that she can no longer enjoy. The despondent adult is their Aunt Karen, who came to live with the family after their mother—her sister—died when Sophie was 6 and Edvard 5. Munch described the difference between this work and other contemporary images of sick children: “the only influences in The Sick Child … were the ones that came from my home … my childhood and my home … few painters have ever experienced the full grief of their subject as I did in The Sick Child. It was not just I who was suffering; it was all my nearest and dearest as well.” (from Sue Prideaux. Edvard Munch: Behind the Scream. Yale University Press, 2005, pp.85-86) Notes by Mariann Smith
Keywords:
Art
Art of Medicine
Chronic Disease/Chronic Illness
Pain
Love
Critical Illness
Family
Suffering
Children
Collection:
Tate Collection