Art and Images in Psychiatry |

Self-Portrait After Spanish Flu

James C. Harris, MD
Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2006;63(4):354-355. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.63.4.354.
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The Spanish flu passed across the North Sea and arrived in Norway in 3 waves in the summer and fall of 1918 and the early months of 1919. Almost half of the Norwegian population of 2.5 million was affected; 15 000 died (5.7/1000).3 Worldwide the death toll was more than 50 million; approximately 675 000 died in the United States (6.5/1000). The Norwegian summer epidemic beginning in mid-June was less severe; most died (8.6/1000) during the second wave from October to December from pulmonary complications and pneumonia. Unlike earlier and later flu epidemics where children and the elderly were the hardest hit, healthy young adults between the ages of 15 and 34 years bore the brunt of this illness in Norway as elsewhere. Not only was the death rate high, but also there were short-term and long-term complications and a reduced birth rate because of the deaths of so many in the prime of life.4

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Self-Portrait With Spanish Flu, 1919. Oil on canvas, 150.3 × 131 cm. © 2006 The Munch Museum/The Munch-Ellingsen Group/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, NY.

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Edvard Munch (1863-1944), Norwegian. Cover: Self-Portrait After Spanish Flu, 1919-1920. Oil on canvas, 59 × 73 cm. © 2006 The Munch Museum/The Munch-Ellingsen Group/ Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, NY.

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