The June issue of Smithsonian includes a question about art relating to the 1918 Influenza pandemic. The question and the answer are included in their entirety as follows:
Q: Did painters living during the 1918 influenza pandemic portray the experience?
—Chase Carter | Washington, D.C.
Some, but not many, documented their personal experiences with influenza: In 1918, the Austrian artist Egon Schiele sketched his wife, Edith, and his mentor Gustav Klimt, both of whom succumbed to the flu. Schiele died from it soon after. In 1919, the Norwegian painter Edvard Munch created self-portraits during his illness and after his recovery. Robyn Asleson, a curator at the National Portrait Gallery, says the American artist John Singer Sargent was painting a mural in Europe when he came down with the flu. The 62-year-old recuperated in a French military tent, which he rendered in his 1918 watercolor The Interior of a Hospital Tent. He wrote of “the accompaniment of groans of wounded, and the chokings and coughing of gassed men, which was a nightmare. It always seemed strange on opening one’s eyes to see the level cots and the dimly lit long tent looking so calm, when one was dozing in pandemonium.”
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