I had the honor of attending a talk about how artists who had illnesses depicted their experiences in their work. Not only are the images extremely powerful, they also offer a valuable opportunity for the viewer to think about how they react to the art. Here are two notable artists who depicted their struggles with medical conditions: Robert Pope – A Canadian artist who died of Hodgkin’s disease at the age of 36. He created more than 90 works of art related to his illness and his interactions with physicians and other patients he met. To view some of his amazing art work and learn more about him, visit the Robert Pope Foundation website.
Frida Kahlo – She underwent over 35 surgeries in her lifetime and suffered from chronic pain after a car accident during her late teens. The following site offers a glimpse into the relationship between her physical pain and her art.
There are many great articles and books out there on this topic. Lisa Russ Spaar lists several in her article in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Several of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine Professor of Psychiatry Kay Redfield Jamison’s books also address this, specifically in the context of mental health.
As pre-meds, this is a great time to think about the relationship between medicine and the humanities. Looking at the connection between illness and art is one great way to do so.